Working toward kindergarten readiness

Published 7:43 am Monday, April 10, 2017

By Jennifer Lawhead

Austin Aspires Executive Director

The weather was perfect on Saturday, April 1. The sun was shining as many families enjoyed the playground outside the library. You could hear children playing the Rhapsody outdoor musical instruments found along the Mill Pond paths. Inside the library, Austin Public Schools Early Childhood, Matchbox Theater, Austin Arts Center, MacPhail Music Center, Austin Rotary Club, Early Risers and Noon Kiwanis Clubs, SEMA, and Austin Aspires joined forces to celebrate spring and promote literacy in the community.

Email newsletter signup

With the theme of “Charlotte’s Web,” children created animals out of recycled materials, sang and made music with instruments, used their imaginations with farm toys and puppets, listened to a story read by a spider (in costume), chose a free book to take home, gathered Kindergarten readiness materials, and entered for a chance to win tickets to the Matchbox performance.

This event at the library was a perfect example of community partners coming together to support a common goal, that “All learners will be ready for kindergarten.” Austin Aspires uses the model of collective impact to improve educational outcomes in our community. Collective impact is the commitment of a group of community members from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem using a structured form of collaboration.

Austin Aspires’ Kindergarten Readiness team in collaboration with Austin Public and Pacelli Catholic Schools and our local preschool collaborative have come together to develop a common set of Kindergarten Readiness objectives for our community. They gathered relationship-focused strategies to support each of these objective areas.

For example, a kindergarten readiness objective is to know 11 color names. A strategy to support this skill is to go on “color hunts” when you are at the grocery store. Families with little ones can look for everything that is red, for example, while doing their weekly shopping. These suggestions can be accessed in several formats.  This team has created (in English and Spanish) a booklet full of suggestions, a one-page summary and online material to support families as they help their young children prepare to start school. A generous grant from the United Way of Mower County paid for the initial printing costs for these materials. Many locations around town have these materials for families, including our local preschools, the Austin Public Library, and Mower County Health and Human Services.

Austin is a community that actively supports the education of our littlest learners. The board from First United Methodist Church has also recently joined the growing list of community partners working to support kindergarten readiness skills. They have donated funds for “Kindergarten Readiness Kits” to be given to every child who completes early childhood screening for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. All children must complete this assessment prior to starting school in Minnesota. These kits will include engaging materials and suggestions for developing kindergarten readiness skills for families of little ones.

The most important message we can share with caregivers of our early learners is to talk, read, and sing together. Brain development happens at a rapid rate in the first five years of life and exposure to language between people is the best “food” for our brains. Just remember, that while it is never too early to support your child’s learning, it is never too late.

If you would like to have some kindergarten readiness materials for your home, business or organization, please contact Austin Aspires at 507-437-0920 or through our website,

Austin Aspires was formed in 2014 with the vision that “Austin will be recognized as a leader in education with a culture of educational excellence, cradle to career, embraced in every aspect of our community.”