Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Program highlights early reading issue


A program set for Friday, March 29, is aimed at parents and drives home the importance of speaking, singing and interacting with infants.

The premiere of “Babies on Track” is set for 9:30 a.m. in the elementary school gym.

Those who attend will receive DVDs about talking with children, free board books and an opportunity to register for “The Imagination Library,” a program sponsored by Dolly Parton that sends one book each month to children from birth through age 5.

“Babies on Track” is sponsored by the local Parents As Teachers program as well as by the Children’s Reading Foundation of Haines and Best Beginnings, a statewide organization aimed at preparing Alaskan children for school.

The reading foundation, which formed in September 2011, also is behind “Sing Out Strong,” a locally-produced program of songs for children to sing with adults.

“We are producing 26, five-minute radio segments to air on (local public radio station) KHNS. In return for funding the studio time production, Best Beginnings asked that they be able to post the audio and lyrics on their website,” said reading foundation executive director Jeanne Kitayama.

Partnering with groups that have similar goals has been a focus of the foundation, which promotes literacy with a focus on children ages newborn to 5.

Members of the foundation’s board include representatives of Parents As Teachers, REACH’s Infant Learning Program, Chilkat Valley Preschool, Haines HeadStart, and the school district’s homeschool program.

Despite studies showing the long-term benefits of early childhood education or “front-loading,” comparatively less money is spent on preschool education than in later years, Kitayama said.“Brain development is strongest in the first four years of life, but funding is the opposite.”

The foundation’s mission includes encouraging families to raise readers, supporting school district efforts to get students reading at grade level by third grade and enlisting the community to help young readers succeed.

Its goals are to foster language enrichment, pre-reading skills and a love of books among young children in the Chilkat Valley.