March 22, 2004

Head Start focuses on the whole child

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Head Start offers more than just a leg up on academic skills when it comes to making sure kids start school ready to learn.

"We look at the whole child," said Cathy J. Reed, who oversees Southern Illinois University Carbondale's seven Head Start Centers in Jackson and Williamson counties.

"For example, if your child has dental problems and is in pain, it's hard to learn numbers and letters. So we would help you set up dental appointments. We can also help with taking you and your child to the dentist."

Because what happens at home also affects a child's ability to learn, Head Start focuses on the family unit, noted Melanie E. Jones, the program's family and community partnerships coordinator.

"We develop action plans for the child, the family and the staff person," said Jones, whose two children are Head Start "graduates."

"It's been my experience that getting the parents involved increases your success with the children."

While the focus on school readiness fits in with President George W. Bush's "Good Start, Grow Smart" initiative, Head Start has emphasized this kind of learning since its earliest days as a War on Poverty program.

"We used to call it social competency, but the terminology now is 'ready to learn,'" Reed said.

"We have always had a curriculum and activities in language, math, science, art, and social and physical development that give children the opportunity to prepare for local school kindergarten programs."

Group activities and games also teach the children such skills as listening, following directions, cooperating and getting along with members of the group.

"Schools tell us that these are skills children need," said Janice M. Brown, a Head Start child development and mentoring specialist. "Games are more than just play."

While Head Start is best known for its work with low-income children, it can serve - within limits - a broader population.

"As many as 10 percent of our families can be over the income guidelines if we have accommodated all the income-eligible families who apply," Reed said.

"Families who are interested in our program should apply even if they think they might not meet the income guidelines.

"Ten percent of our enrollment is also designated for children with disabilities. We have partnerships with schools and other personnel to devise programs for children with special needs."

Pre-registration for weekday morning, afternoon and all-day programs that start in late August will take place in April. Eligible children should be at least 3 years old by Sept. 1 but not yet old enough for kindergarten. Parents may call the center nearest them or the administrative office at 618/453-6448 or 618/997-2216 to set up appointments and must provide proof of income and age when they come in.

Here is the pre-registration schedule, listed by town.





Carbondale Center, 1900 N. Illinois Ave., 618/453-2440


April 21: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
April 22: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
April 23: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Eurma C. Hayes Child Care Center, 441 E. Willow St., 618/453-6448, ext. 226

April 21: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.




Logan Preschool, 700 Logan College Road, 618/985-2828, ext. 8241; and 
Malone's Preschool, 108 Walnut, 618/985-5911

April 13: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
April 14: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Johnston City

901 Prosperity Ave., 618/983-8459

April 21: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
April 22: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.



907 N. Vicksburg, 618/997-4255

April 13: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
April 14: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m 
April 15: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.



9822 Highway 149, 618/687-4433

April 14: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
April 15: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Reaching out and serving others are among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.