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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.

Prescott Valley Quality First center provides stability and learning for 4-year-old boy

As a mother of three, Trisha Shaffer knows that children learn at different paces.

She also saw what a difference it made in learning when she enrolled her second child, Tristan, now 7, in a quality early learning center. She wanted the same experience for her youngest son, Dylan.

“By the time Tristan went to kindergarten he could count to 300,” Shaffer said. “He could spell his name and he knew the alphabet. He knew all his colors and shapes. He would come home all excited and engaged about what he was learning each day.“

Now Dylan, age 4, attends Granny’s House, a home-based Quality First child care center in Prescott Valley. The FTF Yavapai Regional Partnership Council funds Quality First, which works with home-based and center-based child care providers and preschools across Arizona to improve early learning. Dylan is also a recipient of a Quality First scholarship, which allows eligible families to enroll in participating Quality First programs.

Despite some challenges, Shaffer sees that Dylan’s learning is expanding.

“I am seeing him change from day to day,” she said. “Just in the last two weeks, I have noticed significant changes in his speech. Whereas he used to talk more like a toddler in how he pronounced words, the number of words in his vocabulary and the way he put sentences together. Now he is beginning to talk like a little boy. His language is developing so much and it has been very interesting to see.”

Shaffer attributes much of that development to the nurturing learning environment Dylan receives at Granny’s House. She explained how important the stability of consistent care from a quality program was for her family at the time that her husband died nearly two years ago.

“It has given me peace of mind, especially to go through what we’ve been through, to know they have had the quality learning time, but also support for their feelings and emotional development,” Trisha Shaffer said.

“It has been huge for me in our situation. The teachers at Granny’s House were especially supportive when the boys would be sad or upset. Everyone there has been so caring. It has given my sons the kind, safe space they needed to get through a very difficult time.”

Shaffer spoke about the contrast between the child care options that were available to her oldest child, Aris, now 14, and what the boys have experienced in a Quality First program.

“At Aris’s program, the kids just played all the time. Play is important, but there was no structured focus on learning,” she said. “At Granny’s House, they work with the kids to teach them their letters and numbers. They have set themes for each week, such as focusing on oceans or other things. There is encouragement for each child to accomplish developmental milestones.”

Shaffer gets joy out of seeing her youngest son interested in reading.

“He asks me to read with him more, and he is beginning to understand that the words on the page mean something. Just recently he learned the word: cat. Now he recognizes that word whenever he sees it,” said Shaffer. “He gets so excited to point it out and say “C-A-T, that’s CAT!” The look on his face when he recognizes that he is beginning to read is priceless.”

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