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January 24, 2014

Begindergarten to spread beyond Cass County

"Begindergarten" being marketed to outside organizations.

Begindergarten, Reading Railroad’s program designed to prepare children for kindergarten, is now being packaged for other organizations in Indiana.

Rena Sterrett, director of Reading Railroad, has been working for almost a year to turn Begindergarten in to a packaged program available to other Hoosier communities.

The now trademarked program includes two options for interested organizations. The first is purchasing a manual developed by Sterrett. The second includes the manual in addition to a six-hour training session run by Sterrett.

The fee for the manual will be $2,000 with the fee for the manual and training being $3,400. The national United Way is offering a grant to United Way agencies for early childhood education, which is perfect for Begindergarten, Sterrett said. The training will cover everything from acquiring funding to creating community partnerships.

“It has everything they need to know about [Begindergarten],” Sterrett said.

In the past few years, Nikki Reed, former Reading Railroad director, talked with numerous organizations in other counties in the state that expressed interest, Sterrett said. That was the reason they decided to offer it to others.

Letters were sent out in December to alert United Way organizations, mayors across the state, community foundations and non-profit organizations that the program is available.

Allen and Whitley counties have expressed interest in the program and Sterrett is hopeful other organizations will as well with the national push for early childhood education. More and more people are becoming aware of the need, she said.

The Reading Railroad program began in Cass County in 2011. Since then it has grown to accommodate more students.

Sterrett is taking Reading Railroad to a new level, Vicki Byrd, Cass County United Way board president, said.

Sterrett said it’s exciting to see everything come together. The main growth of a child’s brain happens before age 6, she said. The need is becoming more apparent when children who don’t have these opportunities are falling behind.

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