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Children get head start in reading
Several 1- and 2-year-olds sat wide-eyed in front of volunteer Lyndee Ryals Thursday as she read "Old McDonald Had a Farm," a popular children's song and nursery rhyme.

The meows, moos and oinks resounding through the room were having the very effect desired by Ryals. Young minds were churning and learning at the Glynn County Early Head Start program in Brunswick.

Though they are young, their minds are growing rapidly, and now is the time to capture their interest, program director Luvenia Brantley says.

"Children learn more during the ages of 1 to 5 than they will their entire life," Brantley said, noting Head Start has been observing the "Week of the Young Child" since Monday.

"Our phrase this week is 'the early years are the learning years.'"

Brantley said parents, teachers and everyday volunteers read to children and assisted them in activities like arts and crafts all week.

Dads of children were especially invited to attend and participate.

"We even encourage special fatherhood activities because we see the moms a lot, but we want the dads to get more involved," she said. "Even the mailman comes and reads to the kids."

Since August, volunteers and instructors have read 2,333 books to the children, the highest number of books read in the coastal region of Early Head Start Centers.

"We try to focus on school readiness and have even partnered with the public school system, using their curriculum, to prepare their kids," Brantley said. "We have weekly planning formulas, weekly book readings. We do early cognitive skills, we work on shapes, colors, language and speech.

"When we read to the children, we have a back-and-forth with each child, asking them to tell us about the pictures or story."

Brantley has watched toddlers begin to develop cognitive and vocabulary skills.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Brantley and the other teachers work with children ages 6 weeks to 2 years to prepare them for what is ahead.

"We teach social skills as well so that kids know how to share and cooperate with others before they enter their school-age years," Brantley said. "Since I've joined the program in 1984, I've watched it change and continued to watch kids grow more and more."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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