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How to prepare your child for pre-K over the summer

Meck Pre-K no longer has income requirements and will be open to more families in the 2022-2023 school year.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Summer is just getting started but parents of young children should already be thinking about the start of next school year, because starting pre-K or kindergarten can be a big adjustment.

Meck Pre-K hosted graduation for dozens of students ready to head to kindergarten. They sang songs to showcase everything they’ve learned in the last year.

“I just can’t believe they’re graduating preschool,” Farren Stoker said of her twin boys.

Even though school is done, Stoker said they’ll continue to build on what they learned in Meck Pre-K over the summer.

“We’re going to keep going, counting to 20 was their goal and their ABCs for sure, and starting to work on their sight words,” she said.

Teachers encourage parents to do what they can this summer to prepare their children for the next step, whether it’s the leap to kindergarten or their first time in a classroom.

“The adjustment is a little bit chaotic,” Maria Morla, a lead teacher for a Meck Pre-K program in northeast Charlotte, said.

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She said introducing some routine now will help kids get used to the structure they’ll experience for the rest of their lives in school. She said it takes time, but eventually, kids will adjust to being on a set schedule.

Kids will come in at all different levels, she recommends parents get started on some of the basics.

“Knowing how their name looks, trying writing and tracing circles, learning shapes, colors, numbers, letter recognition -- that gives us a great head start,” Morla said.

School can be a big change socially too, especially for preschoolers who haven’t been in a daycare setting before.

“Get books that talk about taking turns and having friends and sharing with their friends,” Morla said.

Stoker said her twin boys were in the same class but separated so they could make their own friends, she’s pleased with how many connections they built with other students.

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Everything they learned will be a solid foundation for the rest of their school careers.

“It’s beyond important," Tenille Banner, the Meck Pre-K communication coordinator said. "Research has shown children who have that early start do so much better and are more successful in their school career and even in life in general."

Stoker’s oldest son started his education there too, and she’s seen it pay off into elementary school.

“I think them getting him started on just being able to pick out five bears and put it in a pile, I think it’s really helped him with his addition because he’s really done well in math,” she said.

Starting this upcoming school year, Meck Pre-K will be open to more families after changes were made to the eligibility. It’s funded by the county and was previously open to families with an income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level. That’s $65,880 a year for a family of three.

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The county has removed those requirements to open it up to more families.

“We were noticing that sometimes folks are right above that threshold, and they might not be able to afford a quality program for their child so lifting that income eligibility makes all the difference,” Banner said.

That change is in line with an expansion to the Mecklenburg County child care subsidy program that took effect at the start of the month.

There are still spots available but they fill up quickly so parents interested should look into registering as soon as possible.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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