Learning On the Go provides books, lunch, fun for young kids in Elgin area
Amber Peters was noticeably happy as she watched two dozen families spread out on blankets with new books under a shade tree.
Elgin Partnership for Early Learning's Learning On the Go -- a two-month program designed to provide family engagement and early learning opportunities for kids age 5 and younger -- has hit the halfway point of its summer run. And on Thursday, roughly 10 new families stopped by at Century Oaks Elementary School in Elgin.
"What I love about this is that the parents come out and engage with each other and engage with their children," said Peters, executive director of the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning. "And teachers are modeling readiness skills that we hope the parents take home and use to reinforce this one hour to build a strong foundation for their kids."
The program, which is in its sixth year, operates in areas chosen based on community data about families who might not be accessing resources like child care, health care and the library.
Anywhere from 30 to 50 kids turn out each week at the seven spots -- five in Elgin and two in Hanover Park. The one-hour sessions include a read-along, some song and dance time and then a craft that encourages learning through play.
Each child gets free lunch provided by Elgin Area School District U-46 and a new book each week, which they can choose in either English or Spanish. On their first visit, they get a book bag with learning supplies that they bring back each week.
"What's interesting is that we serve more Hispanic families but give away more books in English," Peters said.
On Thursday, kids followed along in their own copies as teachers read "We Are in a Book!" in English and Spanish ("!Estamos en un libro!").
Peters said a lot of new families join each week, but she likes seeing the repeat visitors.
"We know we're making more of an impact if they come weekly," she said. "And different partners can come in and offer resources and services."
The YWCA was on hand Thursday to offer child care assistance, either with funding or enrollment in the head start programs in the community. So was the Northern Illinois Food Bank's mobile food pantry, which drew long lines of cars in the school parking lot. Staffers there referred families with children over to Learning on the Go.
"We're working together to feed bodies and feed minds at the same time," Peters said. "They go hand in hand."
For site locations and schedules, visit elginpartnership.org/learning-go.