Program uses "building blocks" to ensure kids are set up to succeed in school

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Infants are too young to pick up a book, but they're not too young to start learning to read. Early childhood experts say developing those pre-literacy skills has to start young -- and a grant at Milwaukee Penfield Children's Center does that.

That grant is made possible through the Kohl's Building Blocks program. It's a multi-year grant worth more than $4 million -- one that paid for books and a library. It also means the center can host parent workshops on pre-literacy.

"By the time they are getting to that school age, they are supposed to know about 3,000 to 5,000 words. So by getting that started early that helps them get set up to read understand how books work," said Rebecca Michelsen, Community Outreach and Education Coordinator.

Educators at Penfield quote a study by the American Educational Research Association. It says students who cannot read on grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. To build those skills, classrooms are decorated with words and letters.

"Furniture labeled, the alphabet will be visible, posted on the walls the kids names will be on their cubbies," said Ann Becker, Vice President of Programs.

Because it is so important to supplement the skills the kids are learning int he classroom at home, each child as Penfield goes home with a tool kit. It includes a book and at least one developmental toy. The goal -- to give young children a head start once they're in school and set them up to succeed in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about the Kohl’s Building Blocks Program, or to see if your child qualifies, please contact Penfield at 414-344-7676.

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