For the sixth year in a row, the Canton Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a school readiness event, but this year they are partnering with other organizations including the North Madison County Excel By 5 Coalition.
The event will be held Saturday, Aug. 4 from 10 a.m.-noon at the Canton Community Center.
Alvin Davis, parks director, said he anticipates to help at least 1,000 kids prepare to head back to school this weekend.
"This year we are really delighted to have Excel By 5 participating," he said. "This will boost the book bag giveaway. Organizations come together like they are now make for a positive event for the city of Canton."
He said in prior years they have served between 500-600 children, but this year everyone has helped to get the word out.
Lively Stone, a non-profit organization in northeast Madison County, is helping with the book bag distribution.
Davis said church members have been spreading the word and sponsors have been very kind in their contributions.
"The way the economy is now, I definitely want to give a good shout-out to all the sponsors," he added.
Bob Clay, state director of the Madison-based Excel By 5, said this is one of many events held throughout the year to promote healthy growth of children from birth to age five.
"Ninety percent of a child's brain development occurs before the age of five," he said. "If you don't capture that early in the cycle, they are less-developed."
There are 35 communities participating in the Excel By 5 program in the state, and only eight are certified. Canton is a candidate community and the readiness event is one step towards certification.
Clay said Excel By 5 began in 2004 and became a 501(c)3 corporation in 2008. He said Mississippi is the only state to have this type of program.
He said the first step is to gather volunteers and community leaders before focusing on four areas - community involvement, family and parent support, early education, and health.
The Saturday readiness event will help to address some of those areas.
"The purpose of the school readiness event not only provides school supplies...but we are able to put information in the hands of a parent so they can start talking to their children."
This Saturday, families are encouraged to go to the Canton Community Center where there will be more than book bags and educational information. There will be activities, including a space jump and water slide. Children and parents can take part in activities such as school bus etiquette and car seat safety.
Once children participate in all activities, they will receive a stamp on their hand that entitles them to a book bag full of school supplies. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
By MICHAEL SIMMONS for The Madison County Journal