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ThriveRichland Prepares Children for Kindergarten; Coordinators Seeking More Play Group Participants

ThriveRichlandRichland One’s ThriveRichland initiative teaches children from birth to 4 years old through play, the overall goal of which is to increase the percentage of students entering kindergarten ready to learn.

One facet of their efforts are the SparkTime Winter Play Groups, which are offered virtually and in person. Students and parents are led in song, dance and story time by Richland One staff members for the open play groups held on alternating Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, while the virtual (online) sessions are held on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 6 p.m. Other play groups are held at various childcare centers within the Richland One attendance zone. At each of the in-person gatherings, children and parents are provided free books and resources.

Program coordinators are hoping that more parents will respond to their call to get involved because participation has diminished slightly with the onset of the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, there was more participation in play groups and we were able to host more in-person sessions at various community locations,” said Dr. Cassandra Legette, coordinator of the ThriveRichland program. “Since the pandemic, some community spaces are no longer available to use.”

ThriveRichland still serves a significant number of students, with 26 families participating in the Think 5 home visitation program and 558 children involved in virtual and in-person playgroups.

“Due to the pandemic, ThriveRichland has had a limited number of in-person events and opted for virtual contacts more often. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations are followed for all in-person events,” said Legette. “Our families have adjusted well and are comfortable with using Microsoft Teams to continue meeting.”

In addition to play groups and the home visitation program, ThriveRichland offers:

  • The Parent Education and Support (P.E.A.S.) Network, which is a monthly, 30-minute parenting session facilitated by the ThriveRichland nurse advocate;
  • Saturday Sessions, which offer free professional development opportunities for childcare providers employed at centers within the Richland One attendance zone;
  • A Director’s Forum designed to present Richland One Child Early Reading and Development Education Program (CERDEP) directors and directors employed at childcare centers within the Richland One attendance zone. The quarterly forums provide professional development training at no cost; and
  • The Pre-kindergarten Coaching Cohort, which provides intensive training from the ThriveRichland instructional coach to a group of Richland One pre-kindergarten teachers. ThriveRichland partners with two childcare centers within the Richland One attendance zone to enhance the quality of instruction.

The program’s comprehensive model ensures children are academically, socially and emotionally ready for school and makes parent engagement and education a priority, said Legette. ThriveRichland provides support by educating families about developmentally appropriate ways to assist in the education of their children.

"The goal of ThriveRichland is to support parents and families in their role as the child's first teacher. The first four years matter immensely in a child's development, and critical milestones should occur long before children ever reach the doors of a Richland One school,” said Rhonda Wiley, director of ThriveRichland. “Richland One is aware of the importance of partnering with parents and guardians to set young children on the path to school readiness. ThriveRichland is intentional in its efforts to meet families where they are on this readiness journey."   

One way the staff accomplishes this is through call and response. It’s a fun, energetic method of teaching during the SparkTime Winter Play Groups where future students and their parents reply affirmatively to the leading of Richland One staff.

To participate or learn more about the program, contact Wiley, director of ThriveRichland, or Legette at (803) 231-7159.