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Listen Tuesdays at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on 90.5 WKAR-FMAccording to the Kids Count report of April 2018, 56% of third graders in Michigan are not proficient in English Language Arts. At the same time, some new public school teachers in Michigan are leaving the classroom because they do not earn enough money for a decent living. Virtual and charter schools are on the rise in Michigan. And in some communities there are breakthroughs in raising better readers.Covering education in Michigan is complex, but WKAR is committed to reporting on the problems, searching for solutions, and holding leaders accountable.Listen for Making The Grade in Michigan with WKAR education reporter Kevin Lavery every Tuesday at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on 90.5 WKAR-FM's Morning Edition.

Early Childhood Calendars Boost Lansing Area Learning

Every parent wants their child to learn how to read.  It’s a skill that takes patience, practice and a lot of time.  But when time slips from a parent’s grasp, the daily reading session can easily slip their mind.


Now, educators in Ingham County have developed a new way to help local families keep track of their kids’ literacy skills day by day.


NOTE: The Ingham Family Early Literacy / Learning Calendar can be obtained at any Capital Area District Library branch, or through the Ingham Intermediate School District.

Four-year-old Van Hyunh is discovering something fun about those silly shapes that form letters and words.


Reading has a rhythm.


Van’s mother, Loan Cao, is from Vietnam.  She’s a doctoral student at Michigan State University.  Cao is still mastering her English skills...and when she and her son are together, it’s hard to tell the teacher from the student.


“The teacher taught him how to say the words and pronounce (them),” says Cao.  “So he learns phonics at school.  So, when he comes home, he corrects my pronunciation.”


Van and his mom are studying vocabulary exercises in a colorful, glossy booklet.  It’s actually a calendar, with short activities spelled out on each day of the week.


Child advocates in Ingham County wanted to give area families a resource to help kids like Van prepare for kindergarten.  So, they created two calendars: one focusing on early literacy, the other on early learning.  The second one includes tips for developing a child’s psychological, social and emotional well-being.


The Ingham Great Start Collaborative asked preschool and kindergarten teachers what they thought children should already know when they start school.


“We found that there were a wide variety of expectations for children entering kindergarten across school districts and sometimes even amongst teachers in the same school district,” says co-coordinator Wendy Boyce.


The calendars are an attempt to channel those various ideas into a common understanding.  


They have some unique features.  For one thing, the calendars begin with September, the start of the school year.  Both follow the usual days of the week, but they’re printed with no numbered dates. 


Their evergreen design allows them to be used indefinitely.


“If there are siblings in the home, maybe one child is not quite ready for some of the activities, but in a year or two they’ll be ready,” says WKAR director of education Robin Pizzo.  “ So, these calendars can stay around; you don’t have to feel like you need to get another one within a year.”


WKAR is airing announcements like this to reach as many mid-Michigan families as possible; even non-native English speakers.  The calendars are printed in Arabic, Burmese, Nepali, Somali, Spanish, Swahili and Loan Cao’s native language, Vietnamese.

Ingham county school calendars
Credit Reginald Hardwick / WKAR-MSU
The The Ingham Family Early Literacy / Learning Calendars come in several languages.


Loan Cao is using the calendar as a teaching tool for her young son.  The Ingham Great Start Collaborative’s Wendy Boyce listens in on their interaction.


“She does something and then she gives him the opportunity to do something in turn,” she says.  “Mom then takes the child’s lead and asks for his input on what he wants to do.  I also hear them having fun.”


“Sounds like Mom got it right,” I ask.


Boyce is quick to reply.  “She sure did!”


Then, having impressed his mom with his command of B-words like “banana” and “ball,” Van winds up for his encore: a quick rendition of the theme song from the classic 1960’s TV show “Batman.”  


Van Hyunh’s future looks bright.  He’ll grow up with a bilingual vocabulary, a loving mother who’s willing to learn right alongside him...and a budding appreciation for vintage TV shows.






Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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