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Program helps families prepare for school

By Taylor Engle
La Habra Journal

La Habra City School District begins their fourth year of the School Readiness Center at Las Lomas Elementary on Monday, August 31, 2015.  The program provides free classes during the school year for children ages 0-5 and their parents to participate in.  The classes are in session all year until May 26, 2016.LHCSD Rediness sign
Each class is either half an hour or a full hour long and provides interactive lessons in manners and etiquette, health and fitness, character building, math, reading, dance, and art.  The parents are encouraged to allow their children to try out as many classes as they are interested in and choose which ones they will be taking from there.  The teachers stress that the parents follow the needs and interests of the child.
There are two teachers per classroom who pay attention to each child in order to plan the lessons around the children’s needs.  “Each age works at a different pace, so we make sure to modify everything to the child’s age and ability,” said Early Learning specialist Oralia Birakos.
The program also has a paid nurse who provides free medical screenings to the parents and students and is available to answer any questions a parent may have about their child’s health and wellbeing.
The character building classes focus on teaching the children proper health and oral hygiene.  “Basic hygiene that seems like common sense to us isn’t always common sense to kids, so we make sure they learn how to properly take care of themselves,” said Birakos.  The teachers also use puppets to act out proper use of manners and sharing.
The Orange County Department of Education provides a nutrition class, which teaches the parents about nutrition and fitness for their children.  The kids also plant fruits and vegetables in the campus garden, which they then learn to prepare and eat in the “Green Team” class.
The Read Aloud class encourages parents to interact and engage, reading to their children but allowing the child to read as well.  The teachers want the students to be able to take home what they learn and practice these skills beyond the classroom.
The program hosts a Golden Bell-winning Literacy Fair in February at Las Lomas.  The fair includes vendors with books, information on reading, and raffles.
Classes are also provided at the La Habra Public Library.  A popular class at the library is Building Blocks, where kids are taken around the city to locations such as the La Habra Police Department, the market, the bank, or the La Habra Farm, given a presentation, and then taken back to the library to build the place they visited with blocks.  “We make sure they build however they interpret what they saw,” said Birakos.  “We want to encourage creativity.”
The music and movement class, which won a Golden Bell, has parents and their kids sing and dance together.  There is an additional dance class provided for children ages 3-5 where National Honor Society students trained in dance teach the children dance routines that they perform for audiences.
Lastly, the School Readiness Center provides a ten-week training course for kids and their parents to run a mile in the OC Marathon.  The parents participate in the training but only the kids run the marathon.
Overall, the program encourages students to practice lifelong learning.  It is an opportunity for parents to learn along with their children and develop positive interactions to last throughout their relationships.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.