Valley kindergartners will get ABC story-mats to promote reading

About 7,500 kindergarteners across the Treasure Valley will receive these ABC learning mats developed by the Lee Pesky Learning Center to help develop basic literacy skills.
About 7,500 kindergarteners across the Treasure Valley will receive these ABC learning mats developed by the Lee Pesky Learning Center to help develop basic literacy skills.

Kindergartners in seven Idaho school districts are getting a jump start on learning their ABCs thanks to a gift from Together Treasure Valley.

About 7,500 kids in the Boise, West Ada, Caldwell, Nampa, Vallivue, Kuna and Emmett school districts will receive the ABC story-mats at their kindergarten orientations that run between Thursday, March 9, and Friday, May 12.

Developed by the Lee Pesky Learning Center, the laminated mats contain colorful pictures and games that can help prepare kids for learning.

Only half of Idaho’s kindergarteners start school with the basic skills needed to read at or above grade level.

Literacy is an important key to success in learning and in life, says Idaho Statesman publisher Debra Leithauser, who brought the idea for Together Treasure Valley with her to Idaho when she took the news organization’s helm in 2016. The valleywide partnership of businesses works to elevate the quality of life in our community.

“What could be more important than preparing children as they embark on their educational journey?” she says. “It’s really wonderful that we could help bring this learning tool to so many kids across the Valley for free. For kids to be able to identify their letters when they start kindergarten is a huge step forward.”

Having that foundation predicts a higher level of success in the long term, says the Pesky Center’s Angeli Weller.

“This will help ensure that young learners have a strong foundation to build on,” Weller says.

The Lee Pesky Learning Center developed these mats as part of the Pesky Method for helping children with a variety of learning challenges for its Idaho Early Literacy Project. The organization has been working to support education in Idaho for 20 years, providing one-on-one evaluation and intervention services, education for teachers and support for parents.

The mats come with support materials that are in English and Spanish. The goal is to help parents engage with their children at home to develop literacy skills through fun and games.

Together Treasure Valley is collaboration between the Idaho Statesman, and other area businesses including Albertsons, Boise Airport, CBH Homes, Colliers International, Engineered Structures, Inc., Holland & Hart, Idaho Central Credit Union, Idaho Power Company, Idaho Statesman, Intermountain Gas Company, Jacksons Food Stores, Lyle Pearson, Oppenheimer Companies, Inc., Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Saint Alphonsus Health System, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, United Heritage Insurance, University of Idaho, Delta Dental of Idaho and Wells Fargo Bank.

In February, the group granted $100,000 to create public art in Boise’s Vista Neighborhood and in Downtown Caldwell. In 2016, the group gave $18,000 to boost programs at libraries in Boise, Caldwell, Eagle, Garden City, Meridian and Nampa, and $40,000 for “Please Be Seated,” a campaign that put 50 park benches in area communities.

So far Together Treasure Valley has exceeded expectations, Leithauser says. She discovered the idea for this collaborative partnership at another McClatchy paper, then retooled it for Idaho.

“Bringing it here where there is such a love of community and strong spirit of giving was a perfect fit,” Leithauser says.