BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "Hickory dickory dock. The mouse ran up the clock."
About ten students recite nursery rhymes at the Biloxi Excel by 5 Family Resource Center at the old Lopez school. They're taking part in a free class called "Teaching Tots on Tuesdays," one of the many things the Biloxi Excel by 5 coalition is doing to help make sure south Mississippi children are ready for school before they enter Kindergarten.
Reciting nursery rhymes and recognizing words that sound alike are useful tools for learning how to read. Lisa Wold leads the class.
"We're teaching tots and parents, trying to prepare them for Kindergarten," she says. "And the more information we can give parents, the better equipped they are to teach their children at home."
Sitting side by side, parents and their children learn language and math skills together. So the learning experience also becomes a bonding experience. Moms and dads are then given material to take home.
Crystal James has been bringing her three year old daughter to the class, and says she loves it.
"I do take the crafts home. We take all the lessons home, and we have play dates too. And we learn the stuff we learn here at my house with other parents," says James.
The early introduction to a classroom setting has proven to make a huge difference in the success of children in school, and beyond.
"I taught school for 30 years," says Wold. "And if you didn't catch them before they came to school, they're not going to be prepared for school. And I saw that every year, the beginning of the year. And I want to help the parents not go through that, I want them to be prepared."
"It's good," says James. "It's free, and like I said, we're a military family stationed at Keesler. And to be able to bring my kids here to a safe environment, you know outside the gates of Keesler, is a great thing."
After making a healthy snack and ending the fun-filled day with a quick art project, these students left with new skills, eager to learn more.
And thanks to a generous grant from IP Casino Resort and Spa, each student is guaranteed to go home with at least one educational tool. This week, they took home a beautiful hardback book of nursery rhymes.
For now, Teaching Tots on Tuesdays only meets once every other month, but the Family Resource Center and its Toy Lending Library (which includes many of the games used in the program) is open three days a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to Noon, and Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. To learn more about the Biloxi Excel by 5, click here or call Susan Hunt at (228) 297-6808.
The Biloxi Excel by 5 is also hosting a Kindergarten Readiness fair Thursday, April 25th at Lopez School from 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. The event gives four and five year olds a chance to board a school bus, go through a cafeteria line, visit a classroom and participate in several fun activities. Translators for Spanish and Vietnamese will be available.