Two Helena teachers recently self-published a kindergarten readiness guide for parents.
Co-Authors Emily Hankins and Ashlie Buresh worked together when writing "The Summer Before Kindergarten." According to Hankins, work on the book started approximately six years ago.
Hankins, a 15-year teacher at Kessler Elementary School, taught kindergarten for most of her career. The other kindergarten teacher was Buresh. Hankins said they would regularly get lots of questions from parents nervous about their child's first year of kindergarten.
According to Hankins, they had many tips but verbally explaining them lots of individual parents wasn't wholly effective. The pair then had the idea to start writing down tips, idea and exercises. Before they knew it, they had enough to write a book.
The book takes the form of activity pages for each letter of the alphabet. It teaches concepts like numbers, shapes, colors, vocabulary and more. Hankins said the book also aims to answer many of the social questions that parents have as their children start school for the first time.
"It's two-fold," said Hankins. "It's to get the kids ready and to put parents minds at ease."
As the quarantine hit earlier this year, it was the push the pair needed to finally finish the book. Hankins said they believed now more than ever it was important for parents to be prepared when sending their child to kindergarten.
Hankins said there was a lot of interest in the book prior to self-publishing. They pair would have liked working with a publisher, but given the push to get the book out before fall 2020, they determined it was more important to get the information out there.
"It's very much a grass roots effort at this time," Hankins said.
The topics of school climate is something that is close to Hankins. She is planning a sabbatical from teaching this fall after 15 years at Kessler. She is pursuing her masters degree from University of Montana in art-integration for education. Her thesis will be on school wellness and school climate.
Hankins has also been contracted to further discuss some of the topics covered in the book in articles for Montana Parents magazine and Youth Connections magazine. She is also working on a picture book for young children told as a folk-style story.
Better learning environments is something that Hankins is passionate about and her future pursuits reflect that. She said there are a lot of scary statistics out there about mental health and burnout among teachers.
"Happy teachers make happy students," Hankins said. "You can't pour from an empty cup."
Buresh has also moved on from teaching kindergarten. Currently, she works as an instructional coach for the Helena school district.
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