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Every Picture Tells a Story

Seven-year-old Penelope reading Knuffle Bunny Too to her sister Marylee’s class (Marylee is to Penelope’s right helping her).
Seven-year-old Penelope reading Knuffle Bunny Too to her sister Marylee’s class (Marylee is to Penelope’s right helping her).

This picture seems to tell a simple story – a school-age girl reads to a preschool class. But this picture represents so much more than one story time: it illustrates the connection one Virginia family formed with their CCLC center.

The Evans family has been a part of CCLC’s University of Virginia Child Development Center for nearly seven years. Their oldest daughter, Penelope, entered the center when she was four months old. Although she’s since left for grade school (first grade), her younger sister Marylee still attends.

“My girls have only ever attended the center and we’ve had good experiences,” said Kari Evans, who was so comfortable with the center she quickly put her younger daughter on the waitlist – before she was even born.

While the teachers came highly recommended by Evans’ coworkers, visiting the center with her husband solidified their decision. During their visit almost seven years ago they found caring teachers who instilled a love of learning in their young students, a building full of natural light from the large windows, and a big outdoor play space for children to run around in and explore. Teachers invited parents to drop in for visits and nursing mothers were encouraged to stop by as their schedules allowed to nurse their babies.

Evans watched as her daughters’ teachers instilled a passion for learning in her children. For example, when she was a toddler Penelope had a teacher who loved art and incorporated that into regular activities, making it fun for the children and part of everyday life. Evans is still amazed when she looks back at the artwork Penelope created as a two-year-old. Penelope still enjoys creating art, something her mother is sure came from that passionate teacher who gave her students the skills to creatively express themselves.

“The center totally gave her the foundation for learning, for art,” said Evans. “The teachers tie that week’s theme into activities. It’s all fun. The children don’t even realize they’re learning.”

Throughout the years the Evans family became part of the center community, attending monthly center events and dropping by for a visit during the day from time to time. When the center recently asked parents to join in their careers theme by explaining their work to their child’s class, Evans didn’t hesitate. Although her work on the university’s bicentennial celebration might be a bit over the heads of Marylee’s preschool classmates, they definitely understood what it meant to plan a “big birthday party.” (And suggested the bicentennial festivities include a bounce house and fire engine.)

But back to that picture. The Evans family has an evening routine in which Penelope reads to her younger sister while their father, who works from home, prepares dinner. Once mom gets home from work everyone’s relaxed and ready to eat. Teachers at the UVa CCLC center heard about this, they invited Penelope to read to her sister’s class. Her reading of Knuffle Bunny Too was such a success, both for the Evans girls, and for Marylee’s classmates, that they’ve requested a repeat visit.

“It’s very exciting when our former students come by and show off their talents,” said Center Director Anne Harrison.

If the Evans are any indication of the strength of the bonds families form with the UVa center, one thing is certain: former students will continue those visits for a long time to come.