State leaders are using federal funds to help families prepare their 4-year-olds for kindergarten.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Adding literacy to its lineup, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats have called up education nonprofit Waterford.org for the ball club’s annual Princess Breakfast, a time for kids to grab something good to eat and hang out with their favorite princess characters. This year’s breakfast is from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Aug. 7 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, where the Fisher Cats will host the Richmond Flying Squirrels that afternoon.
Waterford.org is currently partnering with state leaders to provide 900 families across New Hampshire with its research-based Waterford Upstart early learning program at no financial cost to parents and caregivers. Waterford Upstart is done at home, and a brand-new computer and internet access are provided for families who need those tools. Children learn the basics of reading in only 15 minutes a day, five days a week, and families have the option of an additional math-and-science program, as well. Each family gets a coach who reaches out with teaching tips that also facilitate learning and family engagement away from the computer. Used during the year before kindergarten, Waterford Upstart graduates begin school reading at nearly a first-grade level on average, according to data.
“Children beginning school on par with their peers have better outcomes in school, better outcomes in life,” said Kim Fischer, the national spokesperson for Waterford.org. “That is our goal.”
Reading allowed Fisher Cats pitcher Thomas Ruwe to dream about what he gets to do now.
“Reading has helped me in my life by allowing me to read about the game’s greats and to continue getting better by reading articles and learning more about the game of baseball. I spend a lot of time on the bus trips doing that,” Ruwe said.
The Princess Breakfast provides an opportunity for kids to dream. Waterford Upstart does that, too, equipping parents and caregivers to empower their children to read about their favorite characters and imagine.
“This program has been amazing and is giving my son such a jump start!” said New Hampshire mom Joan Wright, who is using Waterford Upstart to prepare her son for kindergarten. “I believe that teaching him how to read at this age will help him as he begins school. I am truly hoping that it will deepen his love for storytime by being able to read to himself whenever he’d like. It will open the doors to all possibilities. The way that the program teaches the child to sound out the word is amazing. I wish I had this when I was a kid. Reading was very hard for me, but this program has given my son — and myself — the tools for him to use as he starts reading.”
State leaders are using the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to provide Waterford Upstart to New Hampshire children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2023. That funding is why New Hampshire caregivers don’t have to spend money in order to take advantage of the program.
“The Waterford Upstart program hurdles the well-documented preschool access gap, providing proven school-readiness support for children most at risk of school failure because of poverty, PreK access barriers, language differences and social inequity,” New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said. “It does that with a remarkably high level of parent satisfaction, and that includes many New Hampshire families.”
“We had a good bit of latitude in how to spend the ESSER funds, so the fact that we’re using those federal dollars so more children can use Waterford Upstart to get ready for kindergarten shows how much we believe in the program now that we’ve seen initial results,” New Hampshire Education Deputy Commissioner Christine Brennan said.
New Hampshire families with children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2023 may register for Waterford Upstart by calling 1-888-982-9898 or logging on to WaterfordUpstart.org. They may also register during the Princess Breakfast.