Ebony (RIGHT) and Karli (LEFT), 2017

Ebony (RIGHT) and Karli (LEFT), 2017

Ebony and Karli

This August, about 2,500 children will start kindergarten at public district and charter schools within the Kansas City Public Schools attendance boundaries. Research suggests that 1 in 3 Kansas City, Missouri children are not ready for kindergarten. Research tells us that experiences in early childhood, particularly the first 5 years of life, impact long–term social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Healthy development in early childhood helps prepare children for the educational experiences of kindergarten and beyond.

Start at Zero partners with parents like Ebony to ensure her daughter, Karli, is ready for kindergarten. “Preparation began when Karli was about 7 months,” says Ebony, sharing that Start at Zero helped Karli and her prepare for kindergarten by putting an emphasis on the whole family’s readiness. According to Ebony, every visit with her Parent Educator had a common goal of kindergarten readiness, learning how early a child begins to learn and about simple, intentional activities she could do to boost Karli’s development and make it enjoyable. Ebony says, “I know that I am my child’s first teacher and the educational piece behind my child’s development is what helped elevate my empowerment as a parent.” 

Ebony credits her Parent Educator with helping her learn how to make learning fun and how to take advantage of teachable moments at home. She learned about the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills Karli would need and also the social-emotional skills, like playing with others and taking her turn. She explains, “Being ready for kindergarten has become a goal signifying that being healthy and prepared for schooling matters and that it takes intentional work to get there. SAZ supported me and provided me with resources, making me more aware of what to expect from Karli during her early developmental stages and beyond.” Karli will begin kindergarten at Scuola Vita Nuova this year. 

Ebony’s journey with Start at Zero began as a parent participating in programming. Ebony would eventually join the Start at Zero staff as an Americorps VISTA, was promoted to a Community Education Worker and, beginning in October of 2019, will become a Parent Educator herself. 


Susana and Leo

Through Start at Zero’s Playgroups program, children practice the skills they will need to be successful in kindergarten alongside their parents and caregivers. Susana, with her son Leo, decided to participate in Playgroups because she really wanted him to have more interactions with babies his age. As a result of Playgroups, she shares, “I saw noticeable changes in Leo. He became a lot more social and interactive with other kids and he also started talking more. I watched my son learn and be social, which was amazing.” Susana recommends Playgroups for all children, but believes it is especially important for children that are not enrolled in daycare or an early learning center so that they can have the early learning experiences that are critical to being ready for kindergarten and a lifetime of success. 

While Playgroups provide quality early learning experiences for children, they also give parents and caregivers the opportunity to build relationships and engage with one another. Susana explains, “When I started going to Playgroups with Leo, I always thought of it as something that is helping him, but then I started realizing that I was also having connections with other parents and building great friendships as we watched our children grow and learn together.”

Susana (LEFT) and Leo (Right), 2019

Susana (LEFT) and Leo (Right), 2019