Kindergarten students in Whitehall won't experience first-day excitement until Tuesday, Aug. 28, but some received an early peek into what will become their new normal last week during Kindergarten Boot Camp.

The eight-night course was offered from Aug. 6-16 in the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Whitehall is one of eight branches among the system's 23 locations that offers Kindergarten Boot Camp, said Ben Zenitsky, a spokesman for the Columbus Metropolitan Library system.

"(The camp) is designed to prepare kids for what the first few days of kindergarten will be like," Zenitsky said.

Karen Chrobak, a 37-year educator at Whitehall schools, led the boot camp.

Chrobak teaches kindergarten at the district's Early Literacy Campus, where all preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students in the district attend either the C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Center or Kae Avenue Elementary School.

The boot camp covers not only academic lessons such as letter recognition and counting, but also "softer" skills kindergarten students are expected to learn, Chrobak said.

These skills include standing in line, listening to direction, safely holding pencils and scissors and myriad other important behaviors as children acclimate to a much larger world -- with many more people than they may be accustomed.

"It's especially valuable because it also engages parents," Chrobak said.

The boot camp not only helps children, but it also assists in helping parents be teachers at home, she said.

About 20 students registered for the boot camp, said Brittany Harrison, youth services manager at the Whitehall branch.

On the next-to-last session Aug. 15, Chrobak led children in a letter-recognition exercise in which she hid a magnetic worm cutout behind one of 16 letters on a board.

Children had to name and then identify the letter, lifting the card to reveal whether the worm was behind that letter.

"(The library) chose branches where we thought the children in that community could use the support his program provides," Harrison said.

This is the fourth year the library has offered Kindergarten Boot Camp. It began as a pilot program at the Whitehall and Hilltop branches.

The free program, in its fourth year, has grown from two library locations in 2015 to eight, said Kathy Shahbodaghi, public services director for Columbus Metropolitan Library.

It was piloted as the Whitehall and Hilltop branches because of low kindergarten readiness scores at the nearby elementary schools, she said.

Among the parents at Whitehall's boot camp was Hayat Ouali, who enrolled her 5-year-old daughter, Dihya Mekaouche.

"My friend told me about (the camp)," said Ouali, adding her daughter "is excited to be going to kindergarten."

Ouali said the camp has been helpful for both of them and added she can continue helping her daughter prepare at home for the first day of school.

Dihya appears to have a good grasp on letter recognition and spelling, quickly and politely advising Chrobak that her name was misspelled on a copied sheet made for each student.

"I like (the camp)," Dihya said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo