The Courant: New Britain Trying 'Jumpstart' To Help Preschoolers

NEW BRITAIN — As part of the drive to improve student performance with more early intervention, low-income preschoolers in Head Start are getting coaching in literacy from Central Connecticut State University students.

The Jumpstart initiative is funded by four local philanthropic organizations. The goal is to get more city youngsters ready for kindergarten so they don't begin their school years at a disadvantage and risk falling behind early.

“With only 28 percent of New Britain's children reading at or above proficiency level by grade three, there's clearly a need for a program like Jumpstart here,” said Kate Miller, executive director of The Fund for Greater Hartford, one of the organizations funding the work.

“I also think that bringing college students into the preschool classroom offers the younger children some terrific role models—and maybe starts them thinking about becoming college students themselves one day,” Miller said in a statement.

The Liberty Bank Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, the Farmington Bank Community Foundation, and The Fund for Greater Hartford are putting up $42,500 to fund the Jumpstart program in New Britain. It has trained 36 CCSU students in early childhood education techniques, and they are working with about 90 youngsters in two city preschools, sponsors of the program said.

“Without early intervention, young children living in poverty will start kindergarten as much as 60 percent behind their more affluent peers,” said Kerri Osborne, executive director of Jumpstart Tri-State. “If they haven't caught up to the point where they are reading at grade level by grade three, they are four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19.”

The Liberty Bank Foundation established a Jumpstart program in Windham, and joined with the three other donor organizations to set up a similar operation in New Britain.

“We know that low-income children often start kindergarten behind their peers, and many never catch up. Jumpstart addresses that achievement gap before children begin kindergarten, putting them on a level playing field with students from more affluent families.” Jim Williamson, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation for Greater New Britain

New Britain's schools have made early childhood education a priority, and last year established a successful anti-truancy program to ensure that more children in kindergarten and early elementary grades are in school regularly.

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