Amanda Lucas remembers that shortly after enrolling her 2 ½-year-old daughter Layla at the SonShine Center in Parker, the toddler was ready to take center stage with what she was learning.
“She had just turned three, and I remember her standing on top of the coffee table, using it as a stage and belting out her ABCs perfectly,” she said.
Layla, 7, is now a second-grader at Blake Elementary School. She reads at almost a fourth grade level and enjoys chapter books. Her brother, Zachary, also attended the SonShine Center until he was age 3 and moved to the Colorado River Indian Tribes Head Start. Zachary started kindergarten this year and is already testing high on sight-word recognition and writing his name.
Both the SonShine Center and the CRIT Head Start in Parker participate in Quality First, a signature program of
First Things First, which partners with child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning for Arizona kids ages birth to 5.
Quality First funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive, such as training for teachers to expand their skills and to help create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social and academic development of every child.
Research shows that young children who attend quality early care programs have better math, language, and social skills.
Both of Lucas’ children received Quality First scholarships that helped defray the high cost of child care, but she said it was the high standards of care and instruction that her children received that was most valuable to her.
“The teachers there could read my kids just as well as I could,” Lucas said.
Lucas credits the SonShine Center’s hands-on, electronic-free environment with better preparing both her children for school.
“We just had our first parent-teacher conferences of the year, and they are both doing great,” she said.