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Smart Beginnings children's fair: Live, learn and prepare

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Olivia Kelly, 4, receives a free dental screening from Dr. Kenneth Eye II on Saturday during the children’s fair at W.W. Robinson Elementary School in Woodstock on Saturday.

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Araceli Rodriguez, 7, right, and Michael Thomas, 3, paint pictures using fruits and vegetables during the Children's Fair. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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From left, Marcus Miller, 3, Kyla Ritenour, 6, and Tarya Allen, 4, create art with stickers during the Children's Fair. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Breanna Dinges, 8, has her fingerprints taken by Shenandoah County Sheriff's Deputy Jessica Overman during the Children's Fair. Andrew Thayer/Daily

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- People shed their childish ways, and that's all for the better. But thinking like a child, too, goes out the window with age, and a parent's ability to educate their young without processing information like them can make the learning experience a challenge.

When Laura Aumiller's son, Timothy, was 4, she recognized that school was different than when she went through it, so she elected to register him in Shenandoah County's Reading, Rhyming and Readiness program.

The pre-school organization, which relies heavily on funding from the United Way, served the purpose of preparing Aumiller's son for what was ahead and offered him a chance to be social with others his age. Timothy, now a fifth-grade pupil, entered kindergarten at a third-grade reading level.

"He has excelled at school," Aumiller said. "Anything that you can give your child before they get into school will help them greatly."

At W.W. Robinson Elementary School on Saturday morning, ways to mold society's youngest were on display during the second annual Smart Beginnings children's fair. Smart Beginnings, a regional outfit that is grant funded, offers information to parents on how to prepare their children for school, starting at birth and going to age 5. The fair, which had community organizations set up at booths, crafts, free clothing and entertainment, was extended to reach children through fifth grade, said Stephanie Dysart, chairwoman of the county's portion of the area coalition.

As much as 90 percent of brain development occurs by the time a child is 5, she said.
"All experiences are so important," Dysart said.

Reading, Rhyming and Readiness volunteers, for example, were handing out sheets with fun game ideas that also teach. They stressed how a simple thing such as pattern recognition is an algebra skill children can learn at an early age.

Aumiller was volunteering with her son, who had fond memories of the program.
"It was pretty fun," he said. "Instead of just learning, there were activities to make it more fun."

Exposure to the variety of programs available in the community was an important component of Saturday's event, said Woodstock resident Dawn Stoneburner, who brought her 4-year-old grandson, Caden Wallace. They were enjoying time with the boy's friend, Allen Brill, also 4, and his mother, Courtney Brill.

"The boys are having fun; they're enjoying the face painting and the crafts," Brill said, "and I like the free clothing."

Samantha Lineweaver, also of Woodstock, said she donated smaller clothing and made a "good trade" for some to outfit her children, ages 3, 6 and 10.

"This is really, really good," she said. "We don't have enough of this kind of thing in the county."

And this is despite one consequence of the crafts.

"I've got three kids covered in mess," Lineweaver said.

That semblance of disarray, though, will be a long-term advantage. Lineweaver's children were meeting new children Saturday, and she picked up some new tactics to use for educational purposes. Aumiller would be proud.

"It's all about giving your child the best you can as early as you can," she said.

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