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CAPC celebrates Head Start, literacy awareness

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Just in time to celebrate October as National Head Start Awareness Month, the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County has unveiled an initiative called the Reading Railroad Literacy Program to help involve parents in their children’s learning.

“We’ll do it the entire year, and we’re hoping four books will go home with (students),” said Julie R. Rand, Head Start/prekindergarten transition specialist.

The Reading Railroad begins with each Head Start classroom having a lending library of about 40 books each. Each week, students borrow one book and its accompanying literacy cards, which offer tips for parents on engaging themselves and their children with each book.

Mrs. Rand said that each week, parents will be asked to use the borrowed book and have three 15-minute reading sessions with their child. Other interactive learning activities will be encouraged. Once the borrowed book is returned by week’s end, students will receive a sticker on their Reading Railroad track. When students receive eight stickers, they get a free book to keep.

Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, Chi Chapter, has been instrumental in the program. The local chapter has about 100 active and retired teachers from throughout the north central region of the state, including some in Jefferson and Lewis counties. The group’s ongoing service project is to provide all Head Start students in Jefferson and Lewis counties with a handmade literacy bag with a book or two inside.

“There are households that don’t cherish books,” said Patricia R. Burke, chapter member. “This would be their own.”

Last year, the chapter delivered 175 bags and books to Lewis County Head Start children, but are working on many more for those in Jefferson County.

“We count on our community to help us out like this,” said Marie E. Ambrose, CAPC’s Head Start/prekindergarten director.

The Chi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma delivered its first 176 bags and books to Watertown on Wednesday.

Cindy L. Dumas, CAPC family service specialist, said Head Start focuses on a comprehensive preschool program with education, health and family services. The literacy component is one of the larger pieces that helps to prepare children for kindergarten.

Head Start began on a national level in 1965. Since 1967, CAPC has offered Head Start for 3- and 4-year-olds in Jefferson County. The program is funded to serve 275 children and their families.

For more information, call CAPC at 782-4900.

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