Education is a gift that keeps on giving, and educators are at the heart of making that possible.
Now, the district’s teacher and educational support professional unions are giving Kindergartners another gift: Their first books.
Education Minnesota-Lakeville, the Lakeville Education Assistants Federation (LEAF) and the Dakota County Labor Assembly went together to buy all Kindergartners in the district a book.
“The number one indicator of student success is their ability to read at age and grade level by the time they enter the fourth grade,” said Don Sinner, president of Education Minnesota-Lakeville. “EML engaged a group of their Kindergarten teachers to choose a book that would be of use to both the classroom and for the students’ personal enjoyment.”
Together, the teachers chose “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes,” about a black cat in red shoes who discovers his school’s library, lunchroom, playground and all sorts of other cool places. The book, by James Dean and Eric Litwin, seemed to be a perfect choice for students entering their first years of school.
This is the third year that the unions have given Kindergartners their first books, said LEAF President Todd Mooney. LEAF represents educational support professionals who work directly with students such as paraprofessionals, tutors and noon supervisors. LEAF also represents the clerical support staff members who keep schools and district programs running effectively.
“We are so committed to supporting students and families in our district,” Mooney said. “We just felt it tied right in with what we do. For our newest learners, it just felt like a perfect fit.”
Sinner said he hopes the books will be a positive springboard for the district’s newest students to have enjoyable learning experiences as they begin their journeys through Lakeville Area Public Schools.
The books have helped students get excited about school and about reading, said Tanille Van Pelt, Kindergarten teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary School.
“You can see how much it means to them just by looking at them,” Van Pelt said.
In addition to reading, students have created collages of Pete the Cat, Van Pelt said.
The book appears to be resonating well with families, too.
Sinner said he received a letter from a father, who was nervous for his daughter’s first day of school. The little girl had her fears, too, and had some ups and downs on her first day. The highlight was receiving her book, as the character is among her favorites and the family often had checked “Pete the Cat” books out from the library.
“It’s hard to articulate how much this all means to me, but that book was a point of connection and comfort for her on her first big day,” the father wrote. “It was the same for me as a father on one of the biggest days of my life: Sending my first child to school.”
The father went on to write that the family has hundreds of children’s books at home, “but this one will be particularly treasured for me as it is such a sweet reminder of such a monumental day.”
Sinner and Mooney said that kind of feedback is rewarding. The unions expect to continue supporting the program in the years to come.