Jumpstart holds annual program for preschoolers
by Katelyn Cody
On Saturday, April 13, Fordham University’s Jumpstart Program held their annual Jumpstart for a Day Celebration.
Jumpstart is a nationwide organization that provides early literacy and social-emotional resources to preschool students in low-income districts with the aim of ensuring that every child will enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Jumpstart enlists local college students and community volunteers to carry out programming that strengthens various aspects of students’ speech, language, and reading comprehension skills. This year, Fordham’s chapter of Jumpstart has over 20 corps members serving in three preschools across the Bronx. Jumpstart members attend twice weekly sessions at their respective preschools during which they lead students in small-group read-alouds and hands-on activities revolving around the book of the week and a unit theme.
Once a year, Jumpstart chapters throughout the nation hold a “Jumpstart for a Day” event in their local community. Fordham University Jumpstart corps members participated in the Bronx event, which was held in the playground at St. Mary’s Park in the neighborhood of Mott Haven. Fordham students were joined by Jumpstart corps members from Lehman College and Monroe College. The three groups of college students came together Saturday morning to conduct some of the same activities they do in the classroom out in the community.
Activities for the day included read alouds conducted by both Jumpstart members and local public school teacher and author, Anthony Tucker, who did a reading of his new book Tied In. The main character of the book, uses everyday objects, like a piece of cloth, to explore the endless possibilities that creativity and imagination offer him. Other books featured at the event included, Whistle for Willie by author Ezra Jack Keats (most popularly known for his book the Snowy Day), Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn, and Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. One of the key aspects of the Jumpstart program is the use of books with main characters that represent ethnic minorities and are often set in urban settings. Due to the fact that most of the children Jumpstart services are from predominantly minority, under-resourced communities, it is an important mission for the organization to provide children with representation and to also provide books in languages other than English. For example, children who attended Saturday’s event each went home with a free book, one of them being a copy of Lola Plants a Garden that happened to be written in both English and Spanish.
Jumpstart corps members maned arts and craft tables with activities based on the books, such as planting mini flower pots to take home, just like in Lola Plants a Garden and testing different objects to see if they sink or float, similar to in Jabari Jumps in which the main character faces his fears about jumping off of the diving board at his local public pool. Additionally, one of the arts and crafts tables featured a non-fiction book, educating readers about butterflies. Therefore, the activity included creating colorful butterflies out of coffee filters, food coloring, colorful clothespins, and pipecleaners. This particular activity drew a large crowd and taught children about not only butterflies, but also about primary and secondary colors as they mixed food coloring together to make new colors for their butterflies.
However, the day was not all arts and crafts. The event included a dance party led by an instructor from UGOT Active Kids. Additionally there were tables set up for children to play with legos and with play dough; two toys that are incredibly popular with the children that Jumpstart works with.
In addition to the activities geared toward children, there were also community partners present to provide resources to parents. LiteracyINC, an organization that is working to build community networks to help increase literacy rates in urban areas, was there to raffle off some free books to children and their families.
The day even included a visit from a couple local police officers who joined in on the fun and played with the kids. One even participated in the dance party and played basketball with some of the kids playing on a nearby court.
The students who attended Jumpstart for A Day came away with a strengthened interest in reading and some new books and activities to facilitate that. Just like with the kids that Jumpstart works with on a weekly basis, the kids were visibly excited at the prospect of getting a new book to read at home.
But it wasn’t just the kids who had fun. Jumpstart corps members enjoyed getting interact with a new group of kids, including children who were a little bit older and even younger than the preschool students that Jumpstart usually works with. Caroline Holtz (FCRH ‘20) loves working with the program and said that it is an “enriching and fulfilling” way to spend her day. Mariana Beltran-Hernandez emphasized that “the kids are cute” and make coming into the classroom each week a little bit more exciting. For many of the Jumpstart Corps members, going to session is a highlight of their day.
Jumpstart is now accepting applications for their 2019-2020 Corps and is a great way to get more involved with the Bronx community and is a great option for aspiring teachers to get fieldwork hours.
You can fill out the application here: https://application.jstart.org/
If you have any questions, you can reach out to Fordham’s Volunteer Manager, Diandra Malahoo at firstname.lastname@example.org