Book Smart

Local daycare puts the focus on reading to give kids a leg up on life.

A massive study by the University of Nevada that spanned the globe over 20-years concluded in 2010 that the strongest predictor of a child’s attaining high levels of education was simply an abundance of books in a home. They even have it down to a number: 500.

No matter what country you’re in, no matter if your parents were barely literate or university educated. If you grow up around 500 books, you’ll likely go 3.2 years further in education on average. FUN FACT: Americans with degrees make $7,000 – $8,000 more annually than those with just high school diplomas. Just being around books can significantly benefit a person’s intellectual development and income potential.

For dozens of local working families, Wanda Walker’s “Read Ready Learning Center” provides loving childcare in a learning environment. Books? Please. When we asked Wanda to estimate how many books are in her three-story daycare, she said, “Well over a 1,000. I add new ones all the time.” In fact, Wanda goes out of her way to scoop up POC books wherever she finds them.

Her rooms are also full of art, numbers, puzzles, building blocks, chess sets… a colorfully-painted piano. “We don’t offer music lessons but I like to have it around for the kids to play with,” Wanda told us, “This way, when they see one in school or high school, they’ll think ‘OK, I know what this is, I can try this’ and not be intimidated.”

Of course there are toys and video games, too, and a big outdoor yard with a garden and a play set. But what sets Read Ready apart from other area daycares is Wanda’s dedication to giving her children an edge in school. To have them reading by Kindergarten, and to immerse them in an environment that provides 500 books’ worth of stimulation every day (and then some!).

“I know the thing now is to learn by playing, but to me, kids need some structure,” she said, “Learning to focus is as important as learning the material.” So all Read Ready’s kids have a lesson plan, and teachers work with students in classes and independently to foster literacy, curiosity, problem-solving, and even social responsibility.

Wanda keeps colorful fish and lizards in her classrooms to inspire her students to understand first-hand how precious life is.  “I’m hoping that if kids learn to take care of something, they’ll be more likely to have a respect for all life,” she explained.

Every kid is more than an individual for her, they’re also part of the community that she sees blossoming around her. She wants her kids to benefit from the new changes and development coming to the area – to hold their own, and live successful lives here.

Upon thinking of the legacy she’d like to leave, Wanda reflected, “I love seeing the difference a hug and a compliment can make; the confidence that comes to a child who learns to read at an early age. Self love and education together are monumental to positive childhood development.”

Q&A with Wanda of Read Ready

What’s the best part about operating a daycare/early learning center in Germantown?

Seeing children as individuals, supporting positive goals and dreams, and seeing the smiles at the end of the day lets me know Read Ready Academy is making a difference in that child’s life.

What should a parent look for when choosing a daycare for their child?

Look for a daycare that gets children ready socially, emotionally, and academically for the environment they will be going to when they enter school. Cultivating early readers is paramount. Also, look for a daycare that supports the child, the parents and the community,

If you could correct one myth or misconception people have about daycare, what would it be?

LOL. That we are rich. Many, many many daycares are struggling because of the economy and the saturation of too many daycares in Philly. City and state officials should put policies in place that foster a variety of new types of business. Daycare licenses should require an owner to have a minimum of an A.S. in ECE (early childhood education), regardless of what their director and teachers have.

Top three favorite things do with school-age kids on a rainy day?

Rainy days are great for baking, indoor games and round table discussion with the older kids. The younger kids get more free play and music and movement.

What are the biggest challenges she sees for kids growing up today in Germantown? 

Biggest challenge is getting kids and parents to appreciate what education can do for them when they do not have many role models they see as being successful through education, commitment, and hard work; parents are key.

Wanda with Jim Kenney (2016)

About Wanda

Wanda Walker is a committed civic leader with professional and volunteer experience serving various communities in the City of Philadelphia. ·originally a West Philadelphia native, Wanda’s love of children and community began early in life. The daughter of a community organizer, Wanda discovered the importance of self-reliance, educating youth and giving to others as a result of her father’s example.

An industrious and altruistic person, Wanda worked as a Medical Technologist and real estate manager for over twenty years while providing Therapeutic Staff Support for a few years after college as a way of assisting children in need. Divorced with three children, Wanda was determined to leave a legacy that would not only be financial, but also impactful. After identifying the need for more quality childcare and early childhood education centers, Wanda pooled her resources and in 2012 opened Read Ready Daycare and Early Learning Academy in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

Education & Community lnvolvement
B.S., Biology, Lincoln University, 1990
A.S., Early Childhood Education, Community College of Philadelphia, 2016
Owner/Director, Read Ready Daycare and Early Learning Academy
Real Estate Investor
President Community Advisory Board (CAB), Turning Points for Children CUA5
Youth Advisory Board, 39th Police District
PDAC Member, 39th Police District
Block Captain

Read Ready Learning Center
Since 2014, providing affordable childcare in an immersive learning environment, including 3 floors of classrooms, reading nooks, and interactive play areas plus a large green outdoor space with garden and playground. Library of 1,000+ books (and growing). Follow on Facebook.
5015 Wayne Avenue (Germantown)
215-848-3439

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