The Delaware City School District wants to make sure students' reading skills are right at -- or better than -- the expected level.
With the help of grant money, the district has purchased materials to make kits of reading activities that parents can use in working with their children over the summer.
"After watching President Obama's State of the Union, I am so excited that people in this country are finally starting to realize the importance of early literacy," said Amy Piacentino, director of curriculum and programming.
There are two kits: one for young learners, around age 3 or 4 who are who are still in preschool; and one for students entering kindergarten, who will be tested to make sure they are at the correct reading level at the start of the school year.
Piacentino said district literacy coaches have been working together to come up with appropriate activities that would help jump-start children to better reading levels when they come back to school.
Some of the activities in the young learner kits will help with rhyming, manipulating letters, reading out loud and recognizing how a book works.
"Rhyming is huge, according to research," Piacentino said. "Children who have a difficulty learning to read often have trouble rhyming. If we can help with that early on, that is huge."
The kits for kindergartners are intended to give parents something to work on with their students while at home during the summer.
"Because of the third-grade guarantee, we have to screen our kindergartners in August," Piacentino said. "Many parents wish they had known to work with their children before this screening so they are more prepared."
Some of the materials in the kits include books, a calendar of activities, magnetic letters and numbers for the refrigerator, puzzles and a dry-erase board to practice writing.
The calendar specifies an activity for the child to complete every day over the summer. These activities are designed to help prepare them to read and also help them work on practical skills.
Activities include writing their name, finding things in their house in the shape of a circle, zipping and unzipping their coat, practicing writing letters of their name with shaving cream, identifying the shape of the windows in their house and listening to their parents read to them.
"I think some parents need ideas on what they can do with their children," Piacentino said. "A lot of us have those magnetic letters on our refrigerator, but we don't always think to help our children make a word with them, or sound out the letters, or make a word and have them think of words that rhyme with it."
She said the kits are intended to make it fun for the children and parents to learn how to read and write together.
"It's not a chore; it's something they can look forward to doing," she said. "Maybe they can do special activities on the weekends with their grandparents around these activities. It's supposed to be fun. We are excited about this."
The district currently is putting the kits together and coming up with a plan on how to distribute them to preschoolers throughout the city, as well as to parents of kindergartners.