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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Phoenix home-based child care program boosts family’s love of reading in child

As Marquisa Regnier toured Sky Preschool in Phoenix, she knew right away that it would be a good fit for her toddler.

“The student-to-teacher ratio was really appealing,” Regnier said of the home-based program. “It was a very colorful place, very nice and organized.”

Her daughter, Maren, who is now 5, has been attending the preschool for more than two years and Reigner couldn’t be happier with her child’s growth and development.

“Maren’s really improved a lot,” her mother said. “She’s really learned how to share much better and talk to friends and make friends. That’s also super important. So academically and socially, we’ve seen a lot of impact.”

Regnier said the emphasis that Arielle Deloney, the family care provider who owns the preschool, places on reading aligns with her family’s love of literature. In fact, it is a priority for her and husband, Jesse, she said.

Deloney’s preschool is enrolled in Quality First, a program designed to help early care and education providers improve the quality of their programs in ways that help young children learn, grow and thrive.

The First Things First Phoenix South Regional Council funds the program so families in the community have access to centers that provide quality care and education. 

Deloney said she wants to foster a love of reading among children in her care so they can explore books as a fun activity that can allow them to build different reading skill sets, such as identifying letter sounds, blending sounds and reading sight words.

 “Often, reading can be portrayed as punishment,” she said. “I wanted to change the narrative so that you can engage in a story, make it fun and get creative.”

Deloney’s promotion of reading practices isn’t limited to the classroom. Reading books at the park began as her own family affair during the pandemic, which has grown to the preschool’s annual Story Time in the Park. The March event brings together families in her program, as well as relatives and friends.

Regnier said she has been impressed with the reading program that Deloney has developed for children – called “scholars” by the care provider. “Reading is really the most important skill that a child can develop, and no one can really take that skill away from you,” Maren’s mother said.

Maren loves books and has shown much improvement as she learns to read fluently, along with other skills. “She’s been really focusing on her sight words and her writing,” Regnier said.

Another bonus for Regnier is that her child is in a diverse setting that also includes her African American heritage. “I just feel like culture in raising kids is super important,” she said.

All in all, Regnier said she is confident that Maren’s learning experience at the preschool will serve her well when she enters kindergarten next year. 

“I feel pretty confident about her skills,” the mother said.

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