Manlius: School is coming, are first-time students ready?

Believe it or not, as a young girl Karen Porcello used to cry at the thought of kindergarten. A young age 5 (born in October) she had a hard time being happy leaving home. Now Porcello, a teacher and longtime storyteller at Manlius Library, talks to kids about what they should expect when they start school for the first time -- and that's not a thing to cry about.

"You think you don't know kindergarten because you've never done it," said Porcello, animated as she explained the premise of her promise to kids during the program. "But I think you'd be surprised how much you do know about kindergarten because you went to preschool. Kindergarten is a whole lot like preschool, nursery school or daycare."

The annual program of 17 years, which is divided into two parts, helps children get a clear image about their first days of school, and begins with an hour of interactive story telling with lots of props to keep them engaged.

The second part deals with buses, and is coordinated by the Fayetteville-Manlius Transportation Director Judy Clark. Scheduled toward the end of August, Porcello said it's no mistake. The gap between May, when most schools hold their own "getting ready for kindergarten" programs, and August, is long and absent of any schooling for those just beginning.

"This is something we do in conjunction with the F-M School District and with their blessing and their help because they do their thing in the spring," she said. "We do it as close to school so it's fresh in their minds."

Topics of discussion? What to expect, what not to expect, fears and anxieties -- all in good nature through story telling.

"They never have to take ownership [of their fears or concerns in public]," said Porcello, who said she often sees relief flood their faces during her narratives. "I taught kindergarten. I also researched this with other kindergarten teachers, the school counselor, with a psychologist and with bus personnel. This is really, really researched."

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