Light the Candles! Head Start is 52

Posted on May 19, 2017

Capital City Program Joins 1,400 Others Nationally in Community Reading Day

LANSING, Mich. (May 18, 2018) – Wearing a “Reading is Magic” t-shirt and changing up her voice to mimic a parrot or pirate, dramatic story-teller Nicole Hansen brought the book “Pete the Pirate” alive for a Head Start classroom of 17 fascinated 4 year olds.  Each sporting a colorful pirate’s bandana, the children listened intently as Hansen described a pivotal plot twist in which a sunken pirate’s ship rises from the churning sea. “I just knew it!” shouted one boy with unrestrained glee.

Thursday was filled with all sorts of magical moments around books, stories and reading at Grand River Head Start near Lansing’s historic Old Town. It was a day to celebrate, too, as the school hosted one of 1,400 "reading parties” across the United States to observe the 52th birthday of Head Start, the federally funded program that provides comprehensive child development services for more than 1 million U.S. children, including over 35,000 in Michigan.  

Grand River Head Start houses classrooms and services for 222 children, ages birth to 4, and is operated by Capital Area Community Services Inc. (CACS).  CACS is in the process of expanding services to Lansing families with five new classrooms under construction in the newly named Miller Road Head Start thanks to a duration grant from the U.S. Office of Head Start and appropriated by Congress.  

New grant dollars are also making it possible to lengthen the school day to seven hours, and more closely align the Head Start calendar to that of K-12 schools by extending the school year to mid-June in 19 Lansing classrooms, said CACS Director of Preschool Programs Lucy McClintic. The expansion creates needed opportunities for qualifying low-income parents who work and go to school. Overall, CACS oversees Head Start programs for nearly 1,800 children in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton and Shiawassee counties.

“The longer day and expanded year is important for providing more access for children to become school ready. Current research shows a full-day preschool experience offers greater benefits to children,” McClintic added.

In another classroom inside Grand River Head Start, CACS Board Chair Heather Pope was reading the story of a tennis-clad “Itsy Bitsy Spider” hard at work building a new spider web. “I’ve got sandals,” replied one youngster. Another girl, referring to Pope’s bright pink shirt, told her, “I like the colors you’ve got there.” Pope engaged the children by asking them to guess what might happen next in the story. When she finished her animated reading, one boy made a request. “Can you read another book?” he said.

Each child on Thursday received a free book from Scholastic and many made birthday cards to be distributed to Congress in which they answered the open statement:  “I like school because….” Answers ranged from the joys of playing outdoors, creating letters and numbers, and playing with magnets.

The federally funded Head Start program was launched as an anti-poverty program under the Johnson Administration and has helped more than 32 million children and their families prepare for school and life. Besides offering early childhood education, it provides comprehensive services that include health, nutrition and parent involvement for families who qualify because of low income. Parent involvement is key with many serving on Policy Councils in their schools.

Decades of research have documented the impacts of Head Starts that appear immediately, last a lifetime, and even benefit subsequent generations. Among academic, social-emotional, and health gains are these findings:

•    Head Start children significantly reduce their ‘’vocabulary gap’’ during the program year.
•    They are less likely to be chronically absent or held back by 8th grade. And they are more likely to graduate high school.
•    Head Start graduates are more likely to attend college and earn a post-secondary degree.
•    Head Start children exhibit fewer problem behaviors, such as aggression and hyperactivity.
•    They also have healthier BMIs by the end of the program year.

Eligible families may apply to CACS Head Start year-round by completing applications online.  Find applications at inghampreschool.org or call 517.482.1504 for more details.

Capital Area Community Services, Inc., Head Start and Early Childhood Programs, in partnership with the community and participating families, is dedicated to creating a comprehensive, culturally sensitive, nurturing, safe and healthy learning environment in which children, families, and staff are inspired to reach their fullest potential.