By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN Dassel-Cokato Early Childhood Family Education is celebrating The Week of the Young Child, which began April 10, by getting the word out to the public just how important education is even in the earliest stages of life.
Week of the Young Child is in its 40th year and is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
“The Week of the Young Child really creates focus on the needs of young children and their families. Reading a book and having some dedicated play time with your child every day has amazing benefits,” said Tina Stifter, co-chair of the Dassel-Cokato Early Childhood Advisory Council. Kristi Hiivala is the other co-chair.
The Dassel-Cokato Early Childhood Family Education Center, located on the Dassel-Cokato High School Campus on Reardon Avenue SW, is using this week to promote literacy and conduct a donation drive.
The center is hosting a book exchange that enables families to bring in their used books and exchange them for other used books, according to DC Early Childhood Programs Coordinator Jane Ryan.
The center is also having a donation drive by collecting Campbell’s Soup labels, Box Tops for Education, milk caps, Labels For Learning, ink cartridges, and cell phones.
Donations from the community can be dropped off at the center.
The Early Childhood Center’s philosophy is “Take Time to Read, Talk, Play,” which is reinforced through the black T-shirts that the staff wears.
“We can’t emphasize enough to our parents that that’s what kids need,” Ryan said. “They need to be read to, talked to, and played with.”
Early childhood and family education programs offered
The state of Minnesota is unique in that it offers early childhood education programs.
“We’re very blessed to have our state care so much about our youngest citizens,” Ryan said.
There are two programs offered through Dassel-Cokato Early Childhood Family Education including Play-N-Learn Preschool and Early Childhood Family Education.
Play-N-Learn Preschool is a public school program for 3 1/2 and 4-year-old children. This is also known as the School Readiness program.
It consists of a 2.5-hour program in either the morning or afternoon, once or twice a week for 32 weeks. Ryan noted this is slightly shorter than the k-12 school year.
The Play-N-Learn preschool program is taught with the understanding that young children learn best through play and the classrooms are set up to encourage play and exploration.
The registration deadline has passed, but there are still some openings, Ryan said.
Early Childhood Family Education is the other aspect of the center.
Parents and caregivers attend a 1.5 hour class each week, with half of the time being spent interacting with the child and the other half of the time talking among adults on various parenting topics.
Early Childhood Advisory Council
The Dassel-Cokato School District is required by the state to have an Early Childhood Advisory Council to oversee the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program.
“It’s a group that is a voice for our programming,” Ryan said. “They help us know what the needs are for families of young children.”
Typically, the council consists of about 20 people including parents of young children, business owners, and daycare providers.
The council meets once a month at the early childhood center, and child care is always provided, Ryan said.
The council mainly discusses programming needs and offers suggestions.
It’s main fundraiser is the annual Dassel-Cokato Craft Fair, which is always the first Saturday of November.
As part of an end-of-the-year celebration, the advisory council is hosting a vehicle night Thursday, May 19 from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. This is when children can come and tour various vehicles such as fire trucks.
The council also reminds the public that the center’s playground, which was built about 12 years ago and funded by the council, is open to anyone, not just the kids who attend programming through ECFE.
For more information about ECFE and programming, visit www.dc.k12.mn.us/ecfe or call (320) 286-4120.