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BECC’s Jennifer Kelly has plenty of plans to celebrate Week of the Young Child in Branford, including a Saturday, April 23 BECC picnic and activities on the Branford Green (with a tie-in to CDR’s April 23 walkathon, with this artful butterfly on the walk’s official T-shirt). Many more pieces of childrens artwork will be on display in downtown merchants windows as a part of BECC’s April 18 to 25 Preschool Art Walk. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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By posting 426 fanciful pieces of animal artwork downtown for a Preschool Art Walk from April 18 to 25; hosting Little Artists Downtown! events on the Green tied into Community Dining Room’s (CDR) Saturday, April 23 Walkathon; and wrapping up with a youth art show reception at Branford Art Center on Saturday, April 30, The Week of the Young Child is set to make a colorful splash in Branford, thanks in large part to Jennifer Kelly.
Jennifer signed on as Branford Early Childhood Collaborative (BECC) project coordinator in November 2015 and the past few months have included a big focus on pulling together BECC’s annual April celebration of National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Week of the Young Child.
In March she helped BECC kick off One Book, One Town, distributing 900 free copies of Eric Carle’s 2011 title The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse to 15 early childhood centers, preschools and playgroups throughout Branford. Next, Jennifer and CDR Executive Director Judy Barron came up with a great way to combine the April 23 efforts of two community groups into one great visual: this year’s CDR walkathon T-shirt art features a three-year old Branford artist’s blue butterfly, inspired by Carle’s book.
“Every year, with Week of Young Child, we’ve been distributing books to Branford early care centers and pre-schools,” says Jennifer. “This year, our idea was to have Eric Carle’s book tie in with the children’s own artwork, and then have an event at CDR to pick one, so we could put it on the walkathon T-shirt,”
BECC is encouraging families, early care centers and other community organizations to assemble teams and register for CDR’s three-mile walk-a-thon, which begins at 9 a.m. behind Town Hall on April 23. The walk is from downtown Branford to Foote Park and back (rain or shine). Proceeds benefit non-profit CDR; registration information is available at www.communitydiningroom.org. Every registered walker will receive an official Walkathon T-shirt.
Of 13 young One Book, One Town art finalists, the CDR T-Shirt design winner was selected by popular vote during a “wonderful turnout” at Branford-based CDR on April 6, following CDR’s Tuesday Night Family Dinner and Story Time. The artist, “Aaron S.” attends ABC Learn with Me, Jennifer notes.
Carle’s book is packed with vibrant, child-like depictions of animals (including a red crocodile, a purple fox, and a polka-dot donkey). The book’s inspirational message is that “every child has an artist inside of them,” says Jennifer.
Beginning April 18, every piece of art turned out by all 426 little participants will be on display in downtown Branford merchant’s windows as part of BECC’s Preschool Art Walk, through Monday, April 25.
“They’ll be in windows for the kids to see,” says Jennifer. “It makes them feel good about themselves to see their art displayed all over the town. It’s about raising up the children, and seeing them happy and building confidence. It starts with reading; then you add art and creativity.”
With a master’s degree in education and a bachelor of arts in psychology, Jennifer, a former preschool teacher, is uniquely qualified to be BECC’s project coordinator, says BECC Director Robin Comey.
“Jennifer is instrumental in making sure that programs such as the Early Care Provider Roundtables, Children’s Resource Guide, Pre-K Fair, and The Week of the Young Child are run smoothly and efficiently,” says Robin. “She is enthusiastic about helping young children succeed in Branford. She’s fostered great relationships among the early care professionals in town. The Week of the Young Child could not take place without her leadership.”
A new Branford resident and mother of a young son, Jennifer says she’s impressed with the support Branford merchants, downtown groups, and organizations such as CDR have shown for BECC’s Week of the Young Child efforts.
“So many merchants are getting involved and we have Yvonne Gordon at Branford Art Gallery really getting involved this year by putting together an art show of children’s work that is going to be created during our Teddy Bear picnic on April 23,” says Jennifer.
The picnic and other BECC events behind Branford Town Hall, running from 9 a.m. to noon on April 23 will focus on children aged 2 to 10. In addition to the picnic, sensory table, and crafts, BECC will introduce “Ready Teddy,” BECC’s new reading buddy for young children. Kids can create an original painting to be hung in the Branford Art Gallery, 1229 Main Street, between April 23 and 30. On April 30, an Artists Reception takes place at the gallery from 1 to 3 p.m.
“Yvonne is also helping us make a mural for Week of Young Child, with quotes from children and adults, which we hope to hang up at the [Blackstone] Library or Town Hall,” says Jennifer.
Community partners on the Week of the Young Child activities are CDR, Blackstone Library, Branford Early Learning Center, Kidsteps-Birth to 3, Branford Art Center Gallery, Ms. Judy’s Emporium, and the Child Development Center. The event is sponsored by Dr. Norman F. Dahl and Nick’s Service Center of North Branford and is also made possible with donations from Geri’s Happy Home Childcare, ABC Learn with Me, Pine Orchard Nursery School, the Torello family, and Learn and Play Childcare.
For Jennifer, BECC is “all about literacy.” As a collaborative of town leaders, community organizations, public and private pre-K schools, health care community members, businesses, and families, BECC coordinates early childhood efforts for children in Branford from birth to pre-K.
Jennifer notes an average of 35 early childhood educators regularly take advantage of BECC’s professional development round tables. The next, Brain Development and the Impact of Early Literacy with special guest speaker Dr. Cynthia Roque, medical advisor for the non-profit Reach Out and Read, is set for Thursday, May 12 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The roundtable will be held in Pilgrim Hall at Branford First Congregational Church, 1009 Main Street.
“It’s all about literacy. We want them to start reading as young as possible; even starting in the womb,” says Jennifer. “It’s important!”
For more information on BECC’s Week of the Young Child events, visit www.branfordbecc.org or find BECC on Facebook. To register for the May 12 roundtable, email Branford.firstname.lastname@example.org by May 9 or call 203-415-5237.
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