Countdown to Kindergarten (CTK) is a First Steps program based on  successful school transition models from around the country. The  goals are:

• to increase the successful transition of our most at-risk children into the K-12 school system;
• to increase parent involvement in the early grades (particularly in hard-to-reach communities), when children’s learning is foundational for life success; and
• to increase public awareness of the importance of school readiness and provide ways for parents and communities to impact children’s early school success

Countdown to Kindergarten (CTK)  provides six weeks of intensive family and community-based learning for the state’s youngest students as they prepare to enter kindergarten.

The certified teacher (which will be the child’s classroom teacher in the fall) goes into the child’s home for 5 visits.  The curriculum covers English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Writing.  Every child receives a backpack with school supplies as well as high quality books and learning materials that are used on each visit.  After the 5 home visits, the teacher holds a special classroom visit for the Countdown to K participants.  On this visit to the classroom, the teacher will inform the families about a typical classroom day.  The children will have the opportunity to explore the learning centers in the room and also have story time.

Program Components

Home Visitation. Teachers make six visits over the summer to the homes of participating students and families. Visits are hour-long sessions whereby children and families are introduced to actual materials used in kindergarten and are given a Kindergarten Transition Toolkit (backpack filled with books, puzzles, clay, blocks, floor mats, etc.) to keep.

Learning Celebration.  A celebration for participants and their families to celebrate success! A celebration is planned for Thursday, August 4 at Lancaster Bowling Center.

Public Awareness. Throughout the summer, First Steps releases tips to statewide media to help parents and caregivers get children ready for kindergarten.

During the Summer of 2016, Lancaster County First Steps served 100 children enrolled in Kindergarten at 5 elementary schools throughout Lancaster County. Certified Kindergarten Teachers visit families and students during the summer prior to the student entering kindergarten. Participants are identified by the School Principal and the Kindergarten Teachers. Change in student and parent interaction is measured before and after participation in the CTK program.

82% of families served by Lancaster County First Steps Countdown to Kindergarten have never attended pre-school outside of the home

Why CTK Works:

Kindergarten teachers reported that CTK children have greater familiarity, confidence and excitement about attending kindergarten, and that CTK parents are more involved in school and more likely to contact them. CTK parents felt a stronger connection with their child’s teacher, and saw in their children increased confidence and excitement about school. Teachers also said the CTK experience had a significant positive impact on their professional practice.

“I feel that this program has helped all three (3) girls understand that learning is important. All of them are excited about attending school this year. As for the adults in our home, we have all learned and benefited from of the handouts provided to us by the teacher. Our family (everybody) has realized that teaching the children will take participation from all of us.”
Marti Walls, Custodial Grandparent of CTK Participant

“This program has helped Maria see what she will be learning. She has gotten to get acquainted with her teacher beforehand so she won’t be scared to come to school. She has learned to read a few things. She has become excited about learning new things and just all out ready to learn more and show everyone what she knows.”
Courtney Sanchez, Guardian of CTK Participant


“Countdown to Kindergarten helped my daughter to enjoy learning even more than she did.  It taught me that kindergartners needed to know a lot more than I thought.  We really looked forward to every session with Ms. Bowers this summer.”
Tamika Mobley, Mother of Brooklyn Springs CTK Participant

Thanks to Our CTK  Partners

The Springs Close Foundation

United Way of Lancaster County

Lancaster County Partners For Youth