Program begins education early

The Scottie Pups Literacy Programwas named after the district's mascot.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Eighteen-month-old Joseph DeRaleau just could not stop laughing at the bubbles.
Union Schools teacher Karen Haas kept blowing the bubbles and encouraging the youngster to blow them himself.
"This gives him eye-hand coordination and improves his small motor skills as far as the blowing," Haas explained.
Joseph was one of 36 youngsters, of ages up to 4, who joined the school district's Scottie Pups Literacy Program last week. The free program was aptly named for the district's mascot, the Scottish terrier.
The monthly program for district residents is meant to introduce children to school early and get them on track with learning.
Preschool program
Three years ago the district became one of the first in Lawrence County to offer a district preschool program.
Elementary school Principal Linda O'Neill said she wanted to reach an even younger crowd.
"Our desire is to get the kids in here as early as we can. I always say from the crib to school," she said.
The older youngsters heard a story, sang a song and then put together a paper plate pumpkin as a craft.
"I think it's wonderful for the children. It's nice to have time with the other children too," said Kristine Siddall, who was helping her daughter, Emily, 2, put together her paper plate pumpkin.
Children were sent home with books, and mothers received binders with suggested activities to help stimulate babies and promote literacy with toddlers.
The school even provided the youngsters with lunch during the half-hour session.
Andrea Krarup, a teacher in Union's pre-kindergarten program, said the introduction to school is important.
"They come here with their parents, and its fun and a safe environment," she said. "Hopefully by next spring they will feel more independent."
Early education emphasis
Victor Laurenza, a member of the Union Area Board of Education, said early education has been an emphasis at recent Pennsylvania School Board Association conferences. He said the school board has been supportive of O'Neill's efforts to reach younger children. One of Laurenza's own grandchildren, Braeden D'Angelo, 2, was among those at last week's program.
Haas said the staff has been very supportive of O'Neill's efforts to reach youngsters. Toddlers and babies of teachers were even included in the Scottie Pups program.
"This is what makes it real. She offers every child the opportunity to succeed," Haas said.

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