Archive for activities – Page 2

Toddler Fest is Here!

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Join us June 2, 2018 at the Palatka Library for this free event with more than 20 organizations, including the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida. Children can participate in crafts and fun activities, including visits from fun characters. Free books will be given to preschoolers and more!


Early Learning Coalition’s Established Volunteer Program Makes Impact on Children’s Development

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Early Learning Coalition of North Florida Volunteer Erica Bauserman enjoys reading and teaching the children about bees and insects at Brandts Child Care Center in St. Augustine, July 2017.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., July 13, 2017 – Impacting thousands of preschoolers in six area counties, the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida provides reading and literacy programs for area preschools through coordinated volunteer outreach.

Managed by the Coalition, volunteers are screened and trained before setting foot in the classroom. The Coalition provides weekly volunteer readers to groups of 3-5 year olds in daycares and preschools, reading for 30 minutes to an hour as well as literacy outreach volunteers who hold monthly literacy-themed programs. Volunteers may participate in one or both programs.

Themed monthly outreach programs are based on either popular children’s books such as “Pete the Cat” and “Clifford” or themes that follow the school’s curriculum such as the ocean, jungle, senses or arts. Volunteers assist with storytelling and leading activities, often donning costumes or props to enhance the stories. Each child also receives a free book which is reflective of the theme.

The ELC has a well-stocked lending library with books and literacy materials for the volunteers to check out and use. Weekly readers are also able to create relationships with the children through their consistent appearances.

“Our volunteers are that extra-special person coming in to see them each week who exposes our preschoolers to new books and shares their love of reading,” said ELC’s Early Literacy Coordinator Joan Whitson. “The school staff has told me the children look forward to greeting the readers and go right to them when they arrive.”

Early literacy is key to brain and developmental growth, according to Whitson.

“Studies show that the best opportunity to influence our children’s lifetime learning is before kindergarten when their most rapid period of brain growth occurs,” said Whitson.  “Reading to children early sets the groundwork for their future ability to read and learn. We are so grateful for our volunteers who make this impact for our children and future.”

The ELC of North Florida is  seeking more volunteers to join this wonderful program. There will be a required orientation session on Wednesday, September 6th from 10:00-12:30 at the St. Augustine Record building located at One News Place in St. Augustine. To register or for more information to become a weekly volunteer or literacy outreach volunteer please contact Joan Whitson with the ELC of North Florida at 904-342-2267 ext. 202 and at

About the Early Learning Coalition: The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) serves the counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns assisting parents, caregivers and educators of children ages birth-pre-kindergarten. ELC manages and evaluates early child care and education programs through a quality school readiness delivery system.

Governor Scott Proclaims May 12 Provider Appreciation Day

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Read the entire proclamation below.

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About the Early Learning Coalition: The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) serves the counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns assisting parents, caregivers and educators of children ages birth-pre-kindergarten. ELC manages and evaluates early child care and education programs through a quality school readiness delivery system.

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

Early Learning Coalition Implements Innovative Reading Program

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., April 27, 2017 – The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) recently developed a successful reading program that uses different methods for literacy retention.

The Mother Goose program centers around teaching through nursery rhymes and was developed through the collaboration of the ELC staff and Literacy Outreach Assistant Sandi Dunnavant.

During her career as a media specialist, Dunnavant began teaching children to learn rhyming skills, which in turn helped children learn to read more quickly and the response was always positive and fun for the children.

“Many nursery rhymes use numbers, counting and other techniques which help children’s cognitive development,” said Dunnavant. “The use of patterns and sequence help children learn easy recall and memorization.”

The new program was implemented by Dunnavant and ELC Reading Pal volunteers in local preschools and consisted of a Mother Goose theme. Different stories were performed which centered around music and rhythm sticks. All children in attendance also received a free book bag filled with Mother Goose books. The teachers all received a gift packet filled with books and resources to further instruct the children with nursery rhymes.

Due to the program’s success, ELC plans to continue the program and are looking for donations so more local daycare centers can enjoy the new program.

To learn more about the program or donate, please contact Joan Whitson or call 904-342-2267.

About the Early Learning Coalition: The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) serves the counties of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns assisting parents, caregivers and educators of children ages birth-pre-kindergarten. ELC manages and evaluates early child care and education programs through a quality school readiness delivery system.

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

Spreading the Gift of Reading

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By Dianne Battle, St. Johns CARES

In his book, “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut,” Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat character says to a young reader, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

It has been sixty years since Dr. Seuss penned his first Cat in the Hat book. On the 20th observance of Seuss-inspired Read Across America Day, St. Johns CARES was pleased to work with Primrose Schools of Julington Creek and St. Johns Forest to collect hundreds of books for the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) North Florida’s School Readiness Program.

ELC currently serves 6,100 at-risk children from birth to pre-kindergarten in St. Johns and five other counties. Our local Primrose schools play a significant role in donating the thousand books ELC hopes to receive as part of this year’s Read Across America Day book collection. Children who are read to at an early age show improved school readiness scores and vocabulary.

Used books appropriate for 3-4 year olds are distributed to selected pre-schools. New books are included in take-home reading packs so that children can experience being read to by parents and caregivers. Early Learning Coordinator, Joan Whitson, commented that despite serving over 6,000 children ELC always has a waiting list. Volunteers trained as Reading Pals or for Literacy Outreach, and donations are crucial. See ELC’s website,

Donated books that are suitable for older children will be held by St. Johns CARES for summer activity packs the public school system distributes at the end of the school year to over 600 homeless students in its ASSIST (Aid & Support for Students in Sudden Transition) program. St. Johns CARES is now fundraising to provide middle school students with scholarships to attend Gamble Rogers Marine Science Camp. See the Chip in For Youth opportunity at

On March 2, Primrose demonstrated its commitment to improve academic outcomes for disadvantaged children. The jeep ELC’s Kim Brumfield drove was loaded to capacity. Youngsters helped by these donations may be accepted into college some day; this month St. Johns CARES is filling suitcases with dorm necessities for college-bound ASSIST students. See our website, for information on Suitcases for Seniors and Chip in for Youth, or come to a meeting, 7PM third Tuesdays at Bartram Academy. St. Johns CARES is happy to help ELC North Florida keep the Cat in the Hat’s promise, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

Dates for ELC Days at Sykes Farms and Amazing Grace Crop Maze (October 2016)

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ELC early literacy events for October 2016 are described below!

At both events, all children in attendance will receive a FREE “Spookley the Square Pumpkin” book as a gift and each classroom will receive a bag of assorted Spookley and other fall-related books. ELC staff and volunteers will be on-hand to provide an extra fun craft activity for the kids. 

Sykes Farms Early Literacy Event

ELC is sponsoring TWO fall field trips at Sykes Farms in Elkton, Florida- October 3 and 4, 2016 between 9a.m. and Noon.

Admission is only $5.00 for all children and chaperones (free admission for teachers).


The activities include: a trip through the Spookley the Square Pumpkin kiddie maze, hayride through pumpkin patch and sunflower field, visit with Uncle Buck’s farm animals, jump on the “corn popper”, the huge jumping pillow, playground featuring tube slide, corn box, tractor tires, spider web and more.

For booking information, call 904-692-1084 or go to and complete the field trip request form. Don’t forget to mention ELC when booking!

ELC Days at Amazing Grace Crop Maze in Green Cove Springs, Fla. (Lake Asbury area)


ELC is hosting another early literacy event at Amazing Grace Crop Maze on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m.

The cost is $8.00 for all children and chaperones (teachers are free)

The day includes: a mini pumpkin for each child, a hayride which includes visiting farm animals, Spookley the Square Pumpkin story time, crop maze science adventure, amazing agriculture lesion which includes how food gets from the farm to your fridge, jump on the new attraction “The Jump Pad” and playground featuring rat rollers, mini-hay bale maze, duck races and corn hole games.

For booking information, email info@agcropmaze.comInclude school name, contact email and phone number, approximate number of children and chaperones. Please mention the ELC when booking. Their office will contact you to confirm.


Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

[Press Release] Free Family Concert Featuring Jack Hartmann

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PALATKA, Fla., September 12, 2012 — The Early Learning Coalition (ELC) is sponsoring a free community concert on Saturday, September 22, 2012. The concert will feature children’s singer Jack Hartmann, with special guest Elmo from Sesame Street.

Hartmann has written and recorded more than 700 educational children’s songs as well as a children’s book titled “Over the Ocean.” More recently, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater, University of Florida.

The concert, geared for families with children aged two through eight, will be held at Beasley Middle School auditorium at 2 p.m. Each family will also receive a complimentary Jack Hartmann CD. Associates of the ELC will be present at the event and encourage families to donate any new or slightly used pre-school age-appropriate books to benefit less privileged children.

Beasley Middle school is located at 1100 South 18th Street, Palatka, Fla.

For more information, contact Joan Whitson at or call 904-819-3544. To learn more about Jack Hartmann, please visit To download concert information as a flyer, click here: Hartmann_Concert_Flyer

To download high-resolution photos of Jack Hartmann, click here or here.



Joan Whitson, Early Literacy Coordinator




Children’s Activity: Thanksgiving Placemat Craft

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When it’s time for dinner, your preschooler will be excited to share his or her artwork in the form of decorative placemats. Making Thanksgiving placemats is a great way for your child to express creativity. Dinner guests love these homemade placemats, and they can even do double duty as party favors.

Things You’ll Need
·         Large pieces of construction paper in fall colors

·         Clear contact paper

·         Non-toxic craft glue, markers, scissors, crayons, and glitter

·         Cut-out Thanksgiving shapes or stickers

What to Do
1.    Give your preschooler a large piece of construction paper and lay out the art supplies within easy reach. Have your child choose which guest will receive this placemat, and talk together about why you feel thankful for that person.

2.    Now that your child has some great inspiration, help him or her decorate the construction paper to make a personalized placemat for each guest. Write a special message from your child on a corner of the placemat. Don’t forget to date the artwork.

3.    When the glue is dry, you can laminate the placemat to keep it clean. Simply place it face down on a piece of clear contact paper. Place another piece of contact paper over the back, and then trim the edges to make them even.

If you make this, please share your creations at

Check Out Our Winter Newsletter!

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The Winter Newsletter is Hot Off The Press!

Hello Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library family and friends! Our winter newsletter is out and ready to be viewed by YOU. In this issue, you can find information on our upcoming Toddler Fests and other exciting winter events. Also, you can learn about what to read to keep your little ones calm at bedtime, how to share your family album to your children as a story, how to contribute to our books for bravery program and much much more!

You can go straight to the newsletter by CLICKING HERE or sign up for the emailed version HERE. Enter your name right under the Free Books For Babies logo on the left side of the page.By signing up for the email you receive our newsletter straight to your inbox every time it’s published. This way you are the  first to get all the latest and greatest reading tips and ideas, sign up today!

Happy Reading!

Photo Albums: Your Family’s Story Waiting to be Told

Posted by Kristin and Leann enjoy a recent Toddler Fest at the Anastasia Island Branch Library, St. Augustine, hosted by the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam & St. Johns Counties.

There may not be words printed beneath each photograph, but chances are, you know a story you can pass along to your child: the trip to Chicago in that old Plymouth Dart, the Christmas you had an emergency appendectomy, fishing in Nana’s lake.

Research has shown that it’s not just reading a book that stimulates your child—it’s the conversations you have while looking at the page. Your child’s vocabulary expands every time you point to and name an object or a person in the picture. And using a family photograph during story time can inspire you to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end—which helps your child understand how language works. Chances are, you will also tell a family tale with more emotion in your voice and in your facial expressions, and that makes story time more interesting for your child.  In addition, those photos could prompt your child to share memories of his own. Verbal practice is important, even if he’s just repeating the words, “Grandpa’s truck” over and over.

Using photographs as a basis for storytelling has plenty of benefits for your son or daughter’s reading skills, but it can also help you accomplish something else.  In his book Writing About Your Life, author William Zinsser says that recounting your life stories has “the further value of telling your children and grandchildren who they are and what heritage they come from.” In a culture that values immediacy, we don’t always take care to preserve and pass on the gift of the past. You don’t have to write a 500-page memoir to instill a sense of family history in your child. You can do it one memory, one photograph at a time.

But what if you don’t have a huge family with old Plymouths and docks to fish from? What if it’s just you and your baby? Then reach for the photographs you took last month, and talk about those. It is just as valuable to say to your child, “Remember when we bought those sparkly shoes?” as it is to say, “Remember when Uncle Rob fell through the attic ceiling?”

Every detail you discuss will be building your child’s vocabulary, her understanding of story, and her concept of herself. You don’t have to be sitting around a Norman Rockwell holiday table, or rocking on a generations-old porch. You will always have the story that matters most to your child, the one that begins, “On the day you were born…”

Tell your child your family story today!