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'Thrive by Five' program aims to help families prepare children for kindergarten

Posted at 7:14 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 19:14:40-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Forty percent of kids in Pinellas County are not ready for kindergarten and a local organization called Thrive by Five is stepping up to help change that.

Sixty percent of children in Pinellas County are ready for kindergarten, according to testing. That number raised to 69 percent for the students who complete VPK program.

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"We want to get up there. We want to go to 90-100 percent of children being ready for kindergarten," said Dr. Keesha Benson, Thrive by Five director.

Benson is the mother of three small children. She noticed that even with a PhD, it was difficult for her to understand the testing scores.

"My daughter is in kindergarten and I just got her literacy results back and I have four degrees and I had to Google what does it mean? What does the score mean? Where is she at the spectrum?" said Benson.

That’s why Benson is helping to develop Thrive by Five. She says the first five years of a child’s development is critical to later success in school and in life.

"We look at cognitive, social, emotional, physical, mental health of children and how do we support them in thriving for the time we get to kindergarten and beyond that," said Benson.

The program is a way to make it easier for families to help their children learn and grow from birth to age five.

"Some parents can’t even leave work for a meeting for their kids at school. So, how do we get everyone on board to help the support the needs of caregivers and parents and how do they support that," said Benson.

Next month, the Thrive by Five Summit is inviting community leaders, teachers, parents, organizations and businesses to come together and develop an early childhood system. By doing so, all Pinellas County kids can have equal opportunities to succeed.

"We want them to thrive in every way and in every area of life," said Benson.

The Thrive by Five Summit is being held at the Center for Health Equality on Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

For more information, or to learn how to register, click here.