Angie Matthiessen

Angie Matthiessen

Your 5-year-old child is a lot like soil.

Soil stores all the elements that are needed for plants to grow and it provides support for the roots. Good soil will hold moisture while also draining well. It takes a delicate balance to have soil that is the perfect composition for a garden.

And, just like your 5-year-old child, it is important to prepare the soil before you start that garden. When it comes to your child, I am referring to kindergarten.

Kindergarten is a German word that means “garden of children,” which paints a beautiful mental image of little boys and girls growing and “blooming” together. So how do we prepare this soil, that is, our youngsters who will be starting kindergarten this fall?

Each year, The Patterson Foundation funds Kindergarten Readiness Bags to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. These bags are filled with goodies for parents and caregivers to use in engaging and preparing their children for this exciting childhood milestone.

Children who are enrolled in a voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) program may receive their bag as early as March. For those who do not get a bag through VPK, I want to encourage you to attend your school’s Kindergarten Round-Up or register directly with the school as early as possible. The sooner you and your child begin using the free resources in the Kindergarten Readiness Bag, the more impact you will have in developing good soil for your child’s garden.

The bags include items for the children such as flash cards and magnetic alphabet letters. For parents and caregivers, there is a Kindergarten Readiness Checklist, and a Parent Guide that will explain a variety of fun ways to use the flash cards and magnets.

Learning how to read and developing a love for books is crucial to a child’s future academic success, so we have included a little magic in the bags specifically with this in mind.

Each bag will have a magic postcard. Fill out the postcard and send it back to The Patterson Foundation. The postage is already paid, so just drop it in the mailbox and wait for the magic to begin. You will know the magic worked when you receive an age-appropriate book in the mail for your family. Who knows what adventure the magic will take you on?

Charlotte County School District staff members are excited to welcome your child to their garden and watch them bloom. Registering for kindergarten early and using all the great items in your Kindergarten Readiness Bag will ensure that the soil is properly prepared and has just the right composition to begin growing strong academic roots.

Kindergarten Round-Up will be the week of April 19 for children who will be 5 on or before Sept. 1, 2021. You can find out what you need to bring to register your kindergarten student at under the Parents & Students tab. An online registration option is in the works as well.

Once you receive your child’s Kindergarten Readiness Bag, you might be unsure what to do with all the goodies inside. A video of how parents and caregivers can make the best use of these resources be found at

What makes these bags even more special is the love of the community that comes with them. Each year, volunteers from across Charlotte County organize all the materials for the bags, preparing each bag with care. Our volunteers give their time to stuff these bags, knowing that an eager young mind will benefit from these resources once they are assembled and distributed.

Volunteers are still needed to ensure that all the Kindergarten Readiness Bags are assembled in time for Kindergarten Round-Up. Shifts are available on March 1 at the Realtors of Punta Gorda Port Charlotte North Port DeSoto, Inc. on Loveland Boulevard. For more information or to sign up, visit

Angie Matthiessen is the Executive Director of United Way of Charlotte County. She can be reached at


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