Baby Steps celebrated its 10th anniversary Saturday at the little blue house in Okolona with a bounce-house, snacks and lots of information for parents and kids on the importance of reading and good parenting skills.
“This is Mr. Raspberry’s legacy and Baby Steps is accomplishing many of those things he wanted it to do,” said Aisha Goens, the new Executive Director of Baby Steps. “His vision of a program that helps children and helps parents has helped Okolona and North Mississippi.”
The goal and mission of Baby Steps is to make sure that young children from at-risk families are socially and educationally ready for entrance into kindergarten. Baby Steps does this in two primary ways:
• Train parents on ways to enhance their infants and preschoolers’ pre-literacy and language development skills.
• Provide literacy-based enrichment activities for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
The program was initiated by Raspberry, a long-time Washington Post columnist, who became concerned about the low school achievement levels in his hometown of Okolona. His hope was not only to improve the test scores of the children once they enter school but also, by rallying all elements of the town around the academic success of its young children, to help to transform the racially-riven town into a community that values and actively supports learning.
The program, now funded by the Kellogg Foundation, currently reaches some 70 families.
Through partnerships with the Okolona School District, three early childcare centers, community service agencies, the National Council of Negro Women and other organizations, Baby Steps provides resources to parents with young children.
Baby Steps is governed by an active board of directors that is involved with all aspects of the organization.
Baby Steps was initiated in 2002 by Raspberry, with heavy infusions of his own money, as a way to encourage and support families in preparing children age 5 and under to enter kindergarten.
Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and native of Okolona, died July 17, 2012, at his home in Washington, D.C. of prostate cancer.
For more information about Baby Steps, call 447-5040, or stop by the facility at 506 West Monroe Avenue in Okolona.