Barberton Looks Forward to Early Childhood Readiness Fair

District determines communication with parents is key to students’ success

In Barberton, early childhood leaders and district administrators seek more investment in the city’s youngest residents.

Barberton City Schools students

Barberton City Schools students (Photo courtesy of Barberton City Schools District)

“If we expect more from students ages zero through five, we’ll see a much higher return on investment,” says Barberton City Schools Superintendent Patti Cleary. “On the whole, children are not ready for school upon entering kindergarten. That means by age five or six, many students are already behind.”

One problem? Not enough children are going to preschool.

“Summit Education Initiative (SEI)’s determination that only 37 percent of four-year-olds in Barberton are attending preschool was our ‘A-ha!’ moment,” Cleary says.

To help increase school readiness in Barberton, improving communication with parents of preschool-age children is a priority.

“Many parents don’t know how important brain development is in their children,” Cleary explains. “As early in their children’s lives as possible, we need to educate parents about the importance of reading, counting, talking, etc. with young children. Those activities can add a lot of brain-building potential to children’s lives before preschool is even an option.”

All Together Now

Although they have a lot on their plates throughout the school year, principals and teachers in Barberton intend to help improve communication among parents and the eight to 10 local preschools that exist within the district. To support that effort, Barberton City Schools will host an early childhood readiness fair on May 16, 2017.

“In addition to inviting parents and their preschool-age or younger children to attend and participate in kid-friendly activities that explore important early skills, we’ll invite preschools to showcase their programs to parents,” Cleary says. “The format will be very similar to the kindergarten readiness fairs SEI helps coordinate around Summit County every August.”

The idea to host a fair in spring emerged after a representative from Barberton Community Foundation attended the 2016 School Readiness Summit and realized school readiness efforts begin at birth, not just in preschool.

“The Foundation’s Educational Excellence Committee has begun to shift its focus to preschool and early childhood efforts,” Cleary says.

While Barberton Community Foundation will support this spring’s fair at Lake Anna YMCA, the $500 Barberton City Schools received from SEI to jump-start Readiness Coalition efforts in the district will also contribute to fair expenses, such as raffle prizes, food, printed materials and vendors’ tables.

“Spreading awareness about how important early childhood efforts are to our children and the community is crucial,” says Jennifer Sutton, an academic coach who is leading Barberton’s Readiness Coalition efforts. “We want to communicate to parents that they are not alone; there are resources available to help guide them through their parenting adventures.”

During the fair, Sutton is most concerned with getting information to parents of children ages zero to five.

“Providing high-quality, accessible resources that are easy to read and unlikely to be thrown away is in our best interest,” Sutton says, adding she hopes local service providers keep in touch with Barberton’s Readiness Coalition to brainstorm communication strategies together.

The May 16 fair will open for guests at 10 a.m. and end at noon. Service providers and schools who attend the fair will arrive at 9 a.m. for networking and a continental breakfast. Pizza will arrive around 11:15 a.m. for families who attend.

The following organizations will attend the fair to share materials and other pertinent early childhood education information: Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, Barberton Public Library, Child Care Connection, Help Me Grow, Summit County Public Health, Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) and United Way of Summit County.