Not every child going into kindergarten is fully prepared. So the United Way has secured grant funding to help Carbon County children who are not in a pre-K program learn how to become a student.

Before children attend kindergarten, preschool helps them acclimate to a classroom setting. The Lehigh Valley United Way is offering 20 families throughout Carbon County with an online pre-K service called Waterford Upstart.

"Waterford helps bridge that gap by connecting families with a high quality learning childcare program that also works to close the digital divide we've seen become so apparent in these past few months." said Gina Nichols from United Way.

Nichols said 61 percent of Carbon County children do not have access to publically funded pre-K services like Head Start. This Waterford program helps four year olds learn how to learn. Families will get a free laptop, software and internet to complete these online lessons for a whole year.

"Families who are enrolled in the program commit to 15 minutes per day for five days a week." Nichols said, "Families are also connected with a personal early learning coach that's there to support the family and the parents or guardians as they're walking the children through those lessons."

These free online programs are so vital to children who have not gone to pre-K, but are on their way to kindergarten next year. Because it teaches them how to be a student in the classroom.

"Both in terms of their reading skills, their math skills. But also their social-emotional skills. When we talk about kindergarten kids, they need to be ready to come in and sit and learn." said Panther Valley Elementary principal Rob Palazzo.

He said preschool students tend to do better in their first year of public education than children who don't. And the expectations of kindergartners is much greater than it used to be.

"By the end of kindergarten, we're expecting kids to leave reading. And that's very different than many years ago. So you can't cover all that in 180 days. So it's very important that kids have school experience prior to coming to kindergarten." Palazzo said.

There is no income requirement for families to apply. Contact the Lehigh Valley United Way to learn more.