Early childhood literacy is key to the future success of children entering school and working towards graduation and college. Of course, there are direct correlations between these literacy rates and family income levels.
Findings from a 2007 Bradley University study stressed that lower-income families often do not have time to read with their children because they may work two or more jobs. Many of the preschool teachers interviewed felt that improving parental involvement is vital to improving a child’s behavior, development skills, and reading and writing skills. Parents who participate in activities with their children become more motivated to see them succeed.
In February, the United Way’s Success by Six Initiative will partner with more than 40 childcare providers throughout Tazewell, Woodford and Peoria counties to launch a pilot reading program. Each month, more than 2,700 children will receive a brand-new book, along with reading tips for their parents or caregivers. Building on suggestions generated by the Bradley study, the providers participating in the program will also develop activities and materials to increase parental involvement. These programs will be geared toward the entire family so that parents will be more aware of, and involved with, their child’s educational goals and early development.
The Success by Six Initiative aims to ensure that all children from birth to age six are healthy, safe, nurtured and ready to succeed. Working with the results of the United Way’s 2005 Community Assessment—which showed that more than half of the student population in four of the six counties represented by the Heart of Illinois United Way were in the low-income bracket—the Success by Six committee is committed to bringing together community leaders, corporations, educators, advocates and parents to address the developmental needs of children in the Peoria area.
The primary objectives of Success by Six include:
1. Create public awareness of early development opportunities.
2. Improve quality and access to services for young children.
3. Support and create public policy that supports the well-being of children.
In 2008, the Heart of Illinois United Way will once again distribute more than 20,000 “Getting Ready for School” calendars to area parents and children. First produced in 2007, the 15-month calendar provides learning tips, daily educational activities and a list of suggested books to read. The new June 2008-August 2009 calendar will be ready for release in March.
A child’s early years are the foundation for future growth and development. To ensure a child’s success, and the success of his or her community, it is important that fundamentals such as literacy are in place by the time the child reaches kindergarten. Through current Success by Six materials such as the BornLearning public service announcements, the “Getting Ready for School” calendar and the new reading program, the Heart of Illinois United Way is taking steps to make sure these early years are a time of fun and growth for children, parents and caregivers throughout central Illinois. IBI