LIMA — Helping children develop the literacy and social skills necessary to thrive in the fast-paced environment that awaits them in life is the goal of the Lima YWCA’s Family Fun Learning program.
Funded through a 50-50 partnership with the United Way of Greater Lima, the program fulfills a goal of the United Way to increase kindergarten readiness for youngsters throughout Allen County.
Jill Ogle is the parent outreach specialist for the YWCA’s Child Care Resource and Referral programming. Now in her second year with the program, Ogle takes great delight in bringing students and their parents together with others in the community to create a learning atmosphere that is beneficial for all involved.
The Family Fun Learning sessions are open to all children through 5 years of age. Once a month, the youngsters — along with parents and grandparents — may attend one of four 90-minute learning sessions offered at the YWCA, located at 608 W. High St.
Participants young and old alike engage in social interaction, Ogle said, as well as playing educational games and experiencing periods of social play. There is always a read-along story, and area restaurants donate food that allows the YWCA to provide a meal to everyone in attendance as well.
“The restaurants have been really generous. They provide a lot and we are so grateful,” Ogle said.
Between 10 and 12 families typically attend each session.
“I coach the parents on literacy skills so they can teach their kids at home,” said Ogle. “We also do arts and crafts that are related to the story that was read during the session, and each of the participants gets a learning kit to take home with them.”
She said the program replaces the popular Dolly Parton Imagination Library that was offered by the YWCA for more than 10 years.
“That was a very expensive program,” said Ogle. “People loved that program, but they are simply amazed with what they get from the Family Fun Learning sessions. They are gaining so much. The kids get to know one another and the parents do, too. Our focus is on kindergarten readiness and empowering parents as their child’s first teacher.”
Ogle has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has worked with young children in various settings for the past 16 years. Her focus in recent years has been on early childhood development.
“I love encouraging young children in the realm of education,” she said.