Talk, Read, Play launches



April 24, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Families will soon be able to play checkers and read a story on the Allen County Courthouse lawn.
Talk, Read, Play Allen County, a collaboration of area agencies involved in serving children and their families, is an early childhood campaign that targets children age 0-3.
The goals are to encourage parents, caregivers and children to attend community events, supply information on how to make interactions more meaningful and to provide access to resources and experts.
The initiative kicks off April 27 during the Allen County Farmers’ Market. Families will have the opportunity to experience a story walk, tinker with oversized balance scales and pretend in a mud kitchen.   
Over the next year, interactive and problem-solving activities will be placed throughout Allen County. Young hikers and their families will be able to read laminated pages of kid-friendly books placed on stakes and rotated monthly around area trails. Giant building blocks, boxes of nature-based items and games promoting family engagement will become permanent fixtures on the Allen County Courthouse lawn. The agencies are working to provide Gas, Moran and Humboldt with the same types of play activities that promote the type of play that has been lost since the technological boom of the 1980s, according to Early Education Specialist Beth Toland.
“Young children need rich meaningful experiences they don’t need a device in their hands. They don’t need an expensive toy,” Toland said.
Another aspect of the campaign is four community playgroups held during the school year. Area churches are donating the use of vans to help with transportation to the events and monetary contributions will be used to purchase car seats, Toland said.
The first playgroup takes place May 5 at Riverside Park from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Children will have the opportunity to experience a petting zoo, and engage in a number of physical and creative activities. Free dental screenings will be available and fluoride treatments will be offered. Representatives will be on-site to talk to providers and parents, and ambassadors from Allen Community College will be on hand to interact with the children.
Most grants and programs that promote dental and vision screenings as well as look for speech or developmental delays are geared toward children who attend licensed day care centers, Toland said. But the majority of infants and toddlers in Allen County, she said, are cared for by family members or by licensed home providers who do not have access to the same screenings.  
“We know that young children are underserved in our county and we also know that it is incredibly important to spend more time and direct energy into working with them,” Toland said.
The collaborating agencies include  Allen Community College, Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, Greenbush Infant-Toddler Special Education Services, Iola Public Library, Humboldt Public Library, Moran Public Library, Parents as Teachers, SEK-CAP Head Start and Early Head Start and SEK Mental Health.

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