Local Volunteers help Preschoolers Read for the Record!

Local volunteers visited Culpeper’s Head Start program Thursday morning to participate in the national Read for the Record program.

National Read for the Record Day was Thursday, and Culpeper’s Head Start program participated for the first time, said Dorenda Pullen, early childhood and adolescent programs director for the Culpeper County Department of Human Services.

Local volunteers, including CCDHS Director Lisa Peacock, local business owner Donna Cadogan, retired teacher Dave Richardson and representatives from local law enforcement, visited Head Start students in the classrooms in the Galbreath-Marshall Building Thursday morning to present this year’s Reading for the Record campaign’s book, Pullen said.

According to the program’s website, “Read for the Record is a national campaign that was launched over a decade ago to address the educational inequities that leave too many children unprepared for kindergarten.”

On Thursday, children and adults gathered “to learn, laugh and read this year’s campaign book, ‘The Bear Ate Your Sandwich’ by Julia Sarcone-Roach, as part of the world’s largest shared reading experience. Read for the Record inspires adults to read with children, spurs policymakers and organizations to take action towards transformative change in early education, and puts books in the hands of more children across the country,” it states.

About 1.2 million preschoolers across America participated in Thursday’s event, including students in the Culpeper County Public Schools, said Pat Henshaw of the Culpeper Career Center.

Read for the Record is a program started about a decade ago by an agency called JumpStart to promote school readiness and literacy for preschoolers, Henshaw said.

“We had seven people come in and read this morning,” Henshaw said. “We had one shift of volunteers before breakfast, and another group come in after breakfast.”

Pullen said Reading for the Record was included as part of Head Start’s annual Male Involvement Week, during which Head Start invites local male volunteers to visit the school and interact with its age 3- to 5-year-old preschoolers.

Pullen said Head Start has been holding Male Involvement Week annually since 2009.

“It’s a passion of mine that I want to involve positive male role models in children’s lives” Pullen said. “Over the past five years we have definitely seen an increase in involvement of fathers, grandfathers and other males with the program and the children.”

Pullen said the credit for the success of the program goes to its coordinator, Darnell Banks, a family service worker with Head Start.

“Our male involvement efforts continue year round,” Pullen said. “Darnell and the work that he does has really made a big difference. Having a male case worker here is a real positive for the community.”

Pullen said Head Start has held sports activities, chili cook-offs and work days for painting and cleaning up the playground that help draw in male volunteers throughout the years.

During Male Involvement week, Pullen said Head Start relies heavily on volunteers from local “core services.”

“We always have support from the public schools, the local fire departments, the town police department and the county sheriff’s office,” Pullen said.

Pullen said sheriff’s office personnel will be featured Friday as Head Start wraps up Male Involvement Week with a full day of fall festivities, including pumpkin decorating and outdoor activities.

Banks said the next big event for Head Start will be the annual Culpeper Men Care on Saturday, Dec. 17. The event features breakfast, seasonal arts and crafts, photos with Santa and visits to Santa’s work shop where the kids can pick out gifts for their families.

“We’re always looking for volunteers for the event,” Banks said.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Culpeper Men Care or other Head Start programs can contact the program at 540/829-2124.