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Head Start prepares children for the rigors of school
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On Wednesday, the children in Cunningham School's Head Start program learned all about what their first day of "real school" will be like. The 3 to 5-year-old pre-school students prepared for kindergarten with a field trip to local kindergarten classes. They also participated in a variety of elementary school related activities.

The goal of Head Start is to prepare children for kindergarten. Most children enter the program unprepared for school, said Sandy Jones, family service worker and director of Cunningham's Head Start program. She joked that by the end of the school year, most of the kids are "a kindergarten teacher's dream." Children learn how to behave in a classroom setting and how to sit and listen to directions. They also learn pre-kindergarten skills such as the names of colors and how to count to 30.

"I would say that when the majority of them leave Head Start they are up to kindergarten standards," Jones said.

Turlock's Head Start program is accepting applications for new students for the 2010/2011 school year. Children ages three to five years old may be eligible for this federally funded preschool program.

The Head Start program is free to all qualifying families. Head Start classes are offered at Osborn, Cunningham and Wakefield Elementary School sites. The four-hour school day includes two free meals, health checks, art time, play time, pre-math and other age-appropriate activities.

"Our philosophy is that learning should be fun for the children," Jones said.

Head Start also offers classes and events for parents. Lesson topics include relevant parenting information, such as child nutrition and behavior. The classes offer parents an opportunity to discuss ways they can help their children succeed in school.

Head Start is available mainly to low income and at-risk children. Jones said that qualification for Head Start is based on family size, child need and other factors. She encourages any parents who think their children might qualify to come to a registration event.

The remaining registration events will be held at Wakefield Elementary from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 7 and at Crane School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 19. Parents need to bring the child's birth certificate or baptismal record, updated shot record, and proof of income. Proof could be either a TANF letter, a signed copy of 2009 federal tax return, or a current month's worth of paycheck stubs.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.