Ready For School, the broadly based Holland, Zeeland and Hamilton community initiative working to improve kindergarten readiness, has received a $1.9 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to continue preparing children to succeed.
The nonprofit organization, located at 100 East 8th St. in Holland, is focused on having 75 percent of kindergarten students ready for school by 2015. The initiative targets approximately 10,000 children in the communities from birth to age 5.
Last fall, 62 percent of their children met the benchmark criteria for kindergarten readiness, up from 55 percent in 2010. When the initiative first began in 2008, less than half of the children were ready.
“It is scientifically proven that 90 percent of a child’s future learning ability is developed before they get to kindergarten,” said Pat Sosa VerDuin, executive director of Ready For School “From birth to the first day of school, Ready For School connects parents to the resources and services they need to be successful as their child’s first teacher.”
The nonprofit is partnering with parents and childcare providers with a strong alliance of community organizations and resources to achieve its kindergarten readiness goal. The group’s partners include civic, education, health, nonprofit, corporate and faith-based organizations.
Officials say the local donor commitment to the initiative from area businesses, individuals and foundations, robust volunteerism and successful short-term outcomes all were factors in demonstrating to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that the community views children and families as a priority and has mobilized to improve early education.
“Kindergarten readiness is not just a problem for our schools,” said Bruce Los, Ready For School board president and senior vice president of Gentex Corporation. “It is a community problem which impacts our sustainability, economic prosperity and social equity. Children born today are the workforces of our future.”
Colleen Hill, development director, said the foundation’s funding will bolster a variety of outreach and other program efforts.
For example, the organization can now make its community outreach position full-time and double the resources invested in the Healthy Beginnings program, which strives to make sure children ages 0-5 are having their medical needs met, such as annual pediatric checkups.
Funds and programming will be available to reduce and remove obstacles that inhibit a family from providing the early education experiences to their child
In January, the Kellogg foundation announced a 4-year $5 million grant award to Grand Rapid’s Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative. Those funds will be used toward the ensuring the children they work with are able to master kindergarten readiness skills by increasing their accessibility to educational resources.
Ready for School plans to improve kindergarten readiness based on three objectives:
• Engage and inform parents about the role they play as teachers in the first years of their child’s development.
• Enhance existing programming by engaging current preschool and daycare providers in the Ready For School movement through opportunities for professional development and access to effective researched-based teaching methods and learning tools.
• Expand early learning opportunities by ensuring facility and programming space for every child and removing barriers that may discourage participation like cost and inconvenient hours of operation.