OGDEN -- Future kindergartners sat quietly as they listened to teachers at Odyssey Elementary School give them instructions about telling a story. When it was their turn to talk, some smiled shyly as they wrapped their arms around their parents' necks and whispered a story mixed with some giggles.
For some of the children, this was their first attempt at thinking through a story and telling it out loud.
They are taking part in the Ready Freddy kindergarten workshop, designed to help prepare the future students and their parents to be ready and excited for school.
Ron Thornburg, with Family Counseling Services, found the program, created by the University of Pittsburgh, last year when Odyssey asked him to do some parent counseling.
While doing the counseling, he discovered that the parents and their future students needed some extra guidance and tools to get the children ready for school. They also needed some help understanding what goes on there.
Ready Freddy is a six-part program that covers such topics as goal-setting, friendship, reading, writing and numbers -- to name just a few, he said.
Thornburg works with the teachers at the school as well as volunteers from Weber State University and United Way to teach the courses and work with the students.
Although the program is designed for students and their parents, some students come without parents, so the volunteers step in to help out in that way.
Odyssey started the program last year after school had already started, but teachers wanted to implement the program earlier this year. Teacher Loralee Tallman came up with the idea to run the program during summer school. She saw the success last fall and is sure it will be even bigger this year.
"It made a huge difference for the kids last year," Tallman said.
Many of the children who start kindergarten at Odyssey can't count to 10 and recognize very few letters of the alphabet or the sounds they make. The students also haven't had a lot of outside interaction with strangers -- such as teachers or other adults -- so spending time at Ready Freddy camp closes that gap as well, Tallman said.
Oftentimes, the parents bring younger siblings, too.
"It is our hope that it will start a cycle of coming to school and liking being here," Tallman said.
The teachers work with the parents at the camp to create a friendly environment, so everyone feels comfortable being in the school.
"It's a real community outreach for us," Tallman said.
She figures about one-third of kindergarten students will do the camp, and those youngsters will be very helpful when school starts.
"They are like little role models, and they can do things for other students coming in."
Another session of the camp is scheduled at the beginning of the school year so even more students can catch up.
Thornburg said the district is looking at adding the Ready Freddy camp to all elementary schools in the Ogden School District.
On Thursday, each student got a bag of books and supplies that came from donations from students at Orion Junior High. The students looked into their big blue bags to see what was inside and got excited at the idea of picking out even more books.
"The curriculum is designed to teach parents what they can do at home," Thornburg said of Ready Freddy. "It's a good transition program."
He plans to have the program at Wasatch Elementary School in Davis County at the beginning of August.