North Star Academy Provides Over 1,000 Kindergarten Readiness Workbooks to Pre-K Students in Newark’s South Ward

Juliana Worrell of Uncommon Schools discusses the importance of early childhood education. Also pictured: from L-R, Nicole Harris, Newark Superintendent Christopher Cerf and Nathaniel Roberts. Credits: Anthony Alvarez

Uncommon Schools North Star Academy and the Leaguers joined Newark Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf to announce the donation of workbooks designed to help parents prepare preschoolers for kindergarten to more than 1,000 preschoolers in Newark’s South Ward.

The “I’m Ready for Kindergarten!” workbooks are the same as those provided to students entering North Star Academy’s kindergarten classes and are made for parents to use at home with their children over the summer.

The 200-page workbook provides letter and number recognition and writing practice. It’s a fun and rigorous way to ensure students enter kindergarten ready to achieve and offers parents and guardians an opportunity to learn how to play a role in that development.

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This year’s book also celebrates Newark’s 350th Anniversary with fun facts about Newark as well as coloring pages honoring important Newark leaders and celebrities, paid for with a grant from the Newark Trust for Education. The coloring pages feature Newark’s Mayor, Ras Baraka, in addition to his father, Amiri Baraka Sr., as well as jazz artist Sarah Vaughan, entertainer Queen Latifah, Civil Rights leader Dr. Robert Curvin as well as the state’s first Latina senator, M. Teresa Ruiz.

Sen. Ruiz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and has been a longtime advocate of early childhood education, said the workbook is a great resource for families of young children.

“I am honored to be a part of this project designed to assist families in reinforcing fundamental skills that will help their children make a successful transition to kindergarten,” said Sen. Ruiz (D-Essex). “I am particularly proud that in celebration of the 350th anniversary of our great city, this learning tool will be made more widely available to children across Newark.”

South Ward Councilman John James said he appreciates North Star Academy’s efforts in the creation of the workbook.

“Children need every resource available in their early years to better prepare to compete in our global economy,” James said. “I look forward to North Star’s continued interaction and inclusion of our local community.”

The Leaguers prepares more students for kindergarten than almost any other program in Newark. This year, it is serving more than 450 children and will serve nearly 900 next year.

Julia Palacios, Director of Parent, Family and Community Engagement for Leaguers Inc. Head Start Early Head Start program, said the workbook will allow parents and guardians to reinforce lessons taught during the year.

“Parents are the first teachers and best advocates for their children,” Palacios said. “This booklet will help empower our parents to continue the work in the summer that Head Start has been doing with their children throughout the year.”

Jamillah Key, Director of Education at the Leaguers, said summer is a time when many students lose some of what they learned throughout the school year, a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.”

“The workbook is a great tool for the summer, to help students transition to kindergarten,” said Key. “At the Leaguers, we believe that children learn through play, hands on concrete learning experiences and develop language through rich conversations.” she said.

“The Newark Trust for Education has been very pleased to help Newark's schools celebrate the 350th anniversary,” said Richmond Rabinowitz, Interim CEO of the Trust. “The range of programming has been exciting and this kindergarten readiness workbook is a wonderful example of how our children can learn about the rich heritage of their city.”

Newark Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf praised Uncommon Schools for making the workbook available to all students in Newark.

"On behalf of all of the children of Newark, I am grateful to Uncommon for its generosity and spirit of partnership,” Cerf said. “We succeed when all children in Newark have an opportunity to attend a quality, free public school. We must leave politics aside and model our parents, who rarely worry about whether a school is a magnet, county, traditional or charter public school – so long as it is a good school for their child. By working with and learning from each other, as Uncommon is doing today, all of Newark's children win.”

In addition to all South Ward pre-K programs, Uncommon Schools is aiming to provide the booklet for free download.

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