By Amanda Woods
Rina Patel, a tutor and former teacher, knows that the transition from pre-k to kindergarten can be rough for children. Driven to make it smoother, she took matters into her own hands when she founded Book Nook, a new early childhood enrichment program on the Upper West Side.
Book Nook, located at 167 W. 81st St., is geared for children ages one and a half to 7. The program, which begins its summer session in July and its school year session in September, focuses on literacy—helping children take age-appropriate steps in learning to read, Patel said. It will also help children prepare for competitive kindergarten entrance exams, such as the Educational Records Bureau Test and the Gifted and Talented exam.
“The reason for the whole program is, statistically speaking, children are not getting enough emphasis on phonics and handwriting and literacy development skills,” Patel said. “Once children get discouraged, they feel like they can’t do it. We’re building up more confidence.”
Patel, a Midtown West resident, has almost 12 years of teaching experience. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and English, a master’s in teaching literacy and a certificate in early childhood education. She taught pre-k and kindergarten at a New Jersey public school and later became the director of education at Smarter Toddler in Midtown West.
She also had a private tutoring business meeting clients in their homes, and quickly became overloaded with requests. Realizing this, she conceived the idea for Book Nook, where she could teach small groups of children in one location.
Book Nook’s classes are broken down into four age groups. The younger groups focus on reducing feelings of separation anxiety when the children are apart from their parents, as well as fine motor movement. The older groups are geared toward kindergarten readiness, sight words and reading comprehension.
Reading is a focus at every level, even for the youngest children. Patel uses props and acting to engage toddlers during story time.
“They have so much capacity for learning, and it’s underestimated,” Patel said. “I want to get to them when they’re capable.”
The center’s summer program begins July 9 and run until Aug. 17. The morning session, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., is for children entering kindergarten. The afternoon session, from 1 to 4 p.m., is for children entering first grade who need to catch up.
The fall program, which will launch Sept. 10, runs for 34 weeks; children come in on a pre-arranged weekday and meet with Patel for 90 minutes. Patel is accepting a limit of six students for the program so she can offer individualized attention.
Upper West Side resident Tamar Sela said that Patel helped her 4-and-a-half-year-old son, Gabriel, who is enrolled in private tutoring, to grip his pencil and improved his concentration skills. She doesn’t know where she will send Gabriel for kindergarten, but wherever he goes, she is confident that Patel prepared him well.
“She is teaching him how to learn better,” Sela said. “Gabriel is so excited to come here every Wednesday.”
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