Friday, February 28, 2020

Early Literacy Program Expands to Chestatee Elementary

Tacos may be key to making friends with dragons but remember, no spicy salsa!

Preschoolers and their families can meet Taco Dragon from the beloved picture book Dragons Love Tacos at two upcoming Leap into Literacy events hosted by Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) and Forsyth County Schools (FCS).


Chestatee Elementary School, 6945 Keith Bridge Road, Gainesville, will host the first Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon event on Monday, March 16 at 6:00 p.m. The event is intended for preschoolers, toddlers, and infants with their caregivers and admission is free.

The second Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon event will be held at Cumming Elementary School, 540 Dahlonega Street, Cumming, on Wednesday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m.

“Partnering with the library for our children is a fantastic idea. We are excited to host this event and hope that many people will be able to attend. It will be a great first impression of the big school these little ones will attend next year,” said Chestatee Elementary School principal Dr. Polly Tennies.

Kindergarten registration for the 2020-2021 academic year is happening now and many young children in Forsyth County may not have the early literacy skills required for a successful start in school. Leap into Literacy’s expansion to the community surrounding Chestatee Elementary School is intended to reach families who are too far away to participate in events at Cumming Elementary School and the Cumming Library.

“Many children in the northern part of our county are not enrolled in the Georgia Pre-K program or other preschool programs, so kindergarten at Chestatee Elementary will be their first experience in a classroom. The purpose of Leap into Literacy is to empower parents and caregivers to help their children get ready for that first experience and develop the early literacy skills they need to be successful,” explains FCS Title I Part A, Part C, and Title IV Director Amy Chang.

Families attending Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon events will receive a simple meal as they enjoy a literacy-based storytime and puppet show. Then, librarians, educators, and translators will lead smaller groups of families in practicing reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing with their children in specific ways that develop the early literacy skills needed for kindergarten.

“When we talk with families participating in Leap into Literacy, we’re giving them materials and simple techniques to help engage their children in learning. Our intent is to help young children, especially those who are not enrolled in a preschool program, build and feel confident in their literacy skills so they enter kindergarten ready to fully participate,” says Amy Szvetecz, Youth Services Supervisor at the Hampton Park Library.

Participating preschoolers and their families will receive free early literacy materials and training on how to use them at home, a free picture book appropriate for preschoolers, a set of early literacy activity cards, and a reusable learning activity mat.

Participating families at each event can also enter a raffle drawing for a $20 Target gift card and a set of picture books.

Representatives from Bright from the Start, Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning, will also be available to share helpful information about Babies Can’t Wait, summer meal programs, Georgia Pre-K, child care resources, and other programs for families with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

“We’re so grateful to Women United for Forsyth County United Way, Rotary Club of Forsyth County, FCPL Friends & Advocates, and Brandywine Printing for their support of Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon. Their contributions and their volunteers made it possible for the program to grow and deliver much-needed literacy tools into the hands of young children,” says FCPL Programming Manager Tracy Walker.

Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon will be the last program hosted inside local elementary schools this academic year.

One more Leap into Literacy program will be offered over the summer and expansion continues. Leap into Literacy with Pancake Pig will be presented at both the Cumming Library and the Hampton Park Library as part of FCPL’s summer reading program.

Leap into Literacy events for the 2020-2021 academic year will be announced in the fall.

For more information on the Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon at Chestatee Elementary School on March 16 or Cumming Elementary School on March 18, please visit www.forsythpl.org.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Cookie Mouse, Beloved Book Character, Prepares Local Kids for Kindergarten

Parents of preschoolers, toddlers, and infants are invited to bring their children to celebrate the stories of the season with Laura Numeroff’s beloved book character Cookie Mouse at Leap into Literacy on Tuesday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at Cumming Elementary School, 540 Dahlonega Street. Admission to the event is free.


Leap into Literacy is a local early learning initiative organized by the Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) and Forsyth County Schools (FCS) to help parents practice early literacy skills to better prepare their young children for success in kindergarten.

“The program begins with a simple meal, an age-appropriate storytime, and a short puppet show that introduces parents to the five early literacy practices of reading, talking, singing, writing and playing,” explains FCPL Programming Manager Tracy Walker.

Then, families rotate through early literacy learning stations in which librarians, educators, and translators demonstrate free and easy ways that parents and caregivers can practice the five early literacy skills with their children at home.

“Local assessments of students entering our kindergarten classrooms show that we need to continue to focus on language and literacy skills, such as differentiating between letter sounds in spoken words or tracking printed words from left to right and top to bottom of a page,” explains FCS Title I Director Amy Chang.

Parents who engage in early literacy activities with their kids in a purposeful way – such as asking open-ended questions, slowing down the speed of their speech, and allowing kids to draw or scribble – can help their children build the early literacy and learning skills they need for success in kindergarten.


The Leap into Literacy initiative is now in its third season and organizers have fine-tuned selections of books, stories, songs, and writing or drawing activities to help families practice both academic skills, such as letter and number identification, and social skills, such as working in a group or following simple instructions.

“Leap into Literacy doesn’t just provide parent education. Thanks to support from Women United for Forsyth County United Way and the FCPL Friends & Advocates, we’re able to give families that attend each event a free book and activity mat to take home so they have the materials they need to continue helping their child prepare for kindergarten,” says Walker.

For many children, meeting Cookie Mouse and taking home a book featuring his character will be the highlight of the event.

“Laura Numeroff’s books are well known and loved by preschoolers, so it will be a treat for those young readers to see one of their favorite characters up close and in person,” says Walker.

More importantly, Walker adds, is that seeing the character and reading books such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or If You Take a Mouse to School inspires kids to make connections between written language, spoken words, and their real world surroundings.

“Those connections are so important for helping young children build language and literacy skills. When we see a child get excited about reading a book, or learning how to write their own name, or explaining something wonderful they experienced at a Leap into Literacy event, we know we had a small part in setting them up for success, and that’s very rewarding for us as educators,” says Chang.

FCPL and FCS are grateful for the support of organizations like Women United for Forsyth County United Way and the FCPL Friends & Advocates. Additional support from others in the community who have a passion for helping kids become lifelong learners are welcomed.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for next spring’s Leap into Literacy with Taco Dragon events, when the initiative expands to serve families near Chestatee Elementary School in March 2020. Any individual or business interested in supporting Leap into Literacy should contact Tracy Walker at 678-513-9364.

For more information on Leap into Literacy with Cookie Mouse or other free early literacy programs, such as 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, please visit www.forsythpl.org.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Parents and preschoolers prepare for kindergarten at Leap into Literacy

Leap into Literacy, a local early learning initiative organized by the Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) and Forsyth County Schools (FCS), begins a new season of early learning and parent education programs this month.


Leap into Literacy with Elephant & Piggie will be held in the Cafeteria at Cumming Elementary School, 540 Dahlonega Street, on Tuesday, October 22. A simple meal will be served and the program will begin at 5:30 p.m. Admission to the event is free.

“This is the third season of Leap into Literacy and we’re grateful for the support of our title sponsor, Women United for Forsyth County United Way, in helping us to provide a quality learning experience for local families,” says FCPL Programming Manager Tracy Walker.

The purpose of Leap into Literacy is to teach parents and caregivers which skills are most important for success in kindergarten and then help them find fun, free, and easy ways to practice those skills with their children at home.

“Results from local GKIDS assessments of kindergarten readiness show that children entering kindergarten need help building early literacy skills, such as differentiating sounds in spoken language,” says FCS Title I Director Amy Chang.


“The good news for parents and caregivers is that attending a Leap into Literacy program gives them the tools to incorporate these skills into their daily interactions with their children,” adds Chang.

Leap into Literacy with Elephant & Piggie will include a simple meal, a storytime program and puppet show, as well as a visit from beloved book characters Gerald and Piggie from the bestselling Elephant & Piggie series of early reader books by Mo Willems.

Following the Leap into Literacy storytime, the audience will break into smaller groups of families for training in five simple early literacy practices: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.

Parents who engage in those five activities with their kids in a purposeful way – such as asking open-ended questions, slowing down the speed of their speech, and allowing kids to draw or scribble – can help their children build the early literacy and learning skills they need for success in kindergarten.


“While Leap into Literacy with Elephant & Piggie will certainly be entertaining, parents will notice that the stories and activities are designed to help kids practice literacy skills, such as counting, identifying letters, and learning to write their names, as well as social skills, such as listening to instructions and working cooperatively with others,” says Walker.

Walker, Chang, and a team of librarians, educators, translators, and volunteers will lead parent education activities during the event to demonstrate how to practice the skills learned at Leap into Literacy at home. Participating families will receive a free early literacy activity kit, as well as a free book, to take home.

The excitement on each child’s face as they learn to write their name or as they meet characters from the book read during the event is an indicator that Leap into Literacy is having the desired effect, says Chang.


“Reading a book and then meeting one of the characters in person is a great way to help a child find joy and excitement in reading. We hope that excitement follows the family home so they will read their book together and use the activity kit to keep practicing the skills they learned,” explains Chang.

Organizers have committed to giving each family a book to keep, as well as creating early literacy activity kits, at each of the four programs planned this season, but those materials are costly.

“We are grateful for the support of organizations like Women United for Forsyth County United Way and the FCPL Friends & Advocates, and we welcome additional support from others in the community who have a passion for helping kids become lifelong learners,” says Walker.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for December’s Leap into Literacy with Cookie Mouse event. Opportunities to donate or volunteer are also available for the second half of the season when Leap into Literacy expands to serve families near Chestatee Elementary School in March 2020.

Any individual or business interested in supporting Leap into Literacy should contact Tracy Walker at 678-513-9364.

For more information on Leap into Literacy with Elephant & Piggie or other free early literacy programs, such as 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, please visit www.forsythpl.org.