Staff for the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County put out a statement last week encouraging parents to help prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten by signing them up for VPK — or Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten.

ELC staff also sought to inform the public that a certificate of eligibility, which is required for the free program, can be attained through the ELC of Polk County.

VPK programs are known to provide high-quality early childhood programs that include introductions to literacy, math and important social emotional learning skills. At the end of the program, ELC report that VPK students score higher on school readiness tests and tend to be better prepared for kindergarten.

Parents in Polk County who wish to enroll their children in VPK programs may do so through a private childcare provider or a Polk County Public School site which offers VPK. To select a VPK provider and obtain the required certificate of eligibility, parents can visit the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County’s website at https://elcpolk.org/parents/vpk/ — or by calling 863-577-2450.

The free program only requires that the child be 4 years of age on or before September 1, 2020, have a certificate of eligibility, and also be a resident of Florida.

Steps to attain the certificate include: visit elcpolk.org; click the “Family Portal” button; open and begin the application. Proof of the child’s age and residency are required.