At the Early Childhood School on Clinton Avenue in Newark, young pre-school children were energized, excited and eager to listen to visitors reading to them.
“Are you guys ready to have some fun?,’’ said Jonathan Kennedy, a Kean freshman who was among the college students reading to the hundreds of youngsters on an October morning.
“Yes,’’ the tiny ones squealed with delight.
“Well, if you could be a bug, what kind of bug would you be?,’’ Kennedy asked the active pre-schoolers.
“I would want to be a dragon fly so I could fly around and do whatever I wanted,’’ answered one boy.
“I want to be a butterfly,’’ a young girl chimed in.
Their responses were the perfect lead in to Kennedy’s task: reading the book “Ladybug Girl And The Bug Squad,’’ a book that was being read to preschool children across the nation in an October 4 reading campaign sponsored by Jumpstart.
Jumpstart, a national early education organization that seeks to close the stark learning gap between youngsters who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are more affluent, is in its inaugural year at Kean. The program trains a corps of college students to interact with preschoolers to develop and nurture their literacy skills.
Kennedy, a freshman at Kean majoring in criminal justice, is among the Kean corp trainees. One of his colleagues, Stephanie Kazimierczak, a senior at Kean, said she’s focused on helping the youngsters because she doesn’t want them to become what she used to be: a struggling reader.
“My parents would ask me to read a book and I would just freeze up,’’ Kazimierczak said. “I don’t want them (young children) to experience that. I was very self conscious about it.’’
Quoting figures provided by Jumpstart, Kazimierczak said up to 60 percent of children from low-income homes lag behind their classmates in kindergarten.
“Having us read to them is a way for them to become engaged,’’ Kazimierczak said. “When I got to college, reading in all my classes opened my eyes to how very important it is.’’
Each year, Jumpstart coordinates a “Read For The Record’’ Day to bring millions of people together to celebrate literacy by reading the same book on the same day. In 2011, 2.2 million people participated in the “Read For The Record’’ Day.
For the rest of this academic year, members of the Jumpstart Corps from Kean will go into Elizabeth Public Schools to read to pre-school kids at least twice a week.
ShaSae Martinez, a freshman education major from Kean, said she employs a tried and true strategy when she reads to children.
“The key is that you have to be animated,’’ Martinez said.
Billie Genoune, a freshman psychology student at Kean, concurred.
“You got to add some pizazz,’’ said Genoune, another Jumpstart Corps member. “You can’t read it dry.’’
Thaya Kelly, a preschool teacher at the Newark early childhood school, said the Jumpstart Corps’ visit to her classroom seemed to be a hit.
“The kids seemed interested and I didn’t see them getting antsy,’’ Kelly said. “We shall see later what they got out of the content of the story. Overall, this is a good opportunity.’’