As a preschool teacher with over 20 years of experience, Mary Windham knows the value of early learning experiences for young children. Her challenge was how to enhance the educational resources she offers to the children and parents of her home-based childcare center in order to make the most of their learning potential.
2 years ago Mary was introduced to a new learning tool designed for home-based childcare providers by one of United Way’s Born Learning Coordinators, Penny Henderson. The tool was Born Learning’s free T.O.T.E.S. exchange program. T.O.T.E.S. which stands for Taking on Tomorrow's Educational Success provides monthly educational totes filled with fun and informative learning tools to share literacy and learning experiences with children to childcare providers throughout the county.
Mary operates her own in home childcare center, Smart Start Child Care out of her west side home in Anderson. More than half of the children in Mary’s care are under the age of 5. This age is a critical learning time for children because evidence has shown that children who build early learning skills before kindergarten enter school more ready to learn than their peers.
“It’s a great program. It’s convenient and the children are able to learn a lot,” said Mary. “If I didn’t have the T.O.T.E.S program, I would have to come up with parent resources myself at the library and time is limited when you are caring for children. The program makes teaching easier and it provides resources that parents can really use. The benefit to both parents and kids is great.”
For Mary, the program has been a great resource and it compliments her creative curriculum perfectly. The children use the manipulatives and activities in the totes throughout the month and Mary utilizes the books when reading to the children. She enhances her reading time by using the Dialogic reading technique recommended and taught by Born Learning. Mary has seen that by using the dialogic method the kids remember and comprehend more from the books they have read.
Mary is happy to report that the T.O.T.E.S. program has helped increase the cognitive and motor skills of the children at her center and that the kids that have moved on to enter school are doing great. “I get good reports from parents and grandparents. The kids were well prepared for school.”