Dear Ready for School Supporter:
With the start of the most unusual school year in modern history, I want to give you
an update on this similarly unusual and extraordinary time in Ready for School's history.
Though it wasn't a typical summer, it certainly was not quiet around Ready for School. In fact,
it was one of our busiest summers to date and has led us to re-imagine how we do our work and how we can deliver access to high-quality early learning experiences to more people in continually meaningful ways.
In 2020, a resounding theme at Ready for School is the power of remarkable families. Your response to the Family-led Match Giving Challenge last December was the first inspiring example with families at the center of our work. When pandemic related changes meant
we saw entire families at our summer kindergarten readiness program, we watched as
parents became teachers and siblings became classmates. When unanticipated but amazing
opportunities came about, our own families and neighbors answered the call to address needs and complete projects. The list of examples is long and our gratitude is immense.
Extraordinary times require extraordinary and nimble action. I'm proud that we took on challenges and proved, yet again, that we are a community that invests in the BIG potential of all small children. Challenges are ahead for us all, and I wish you strength, resolve, and grace in moving through and beyond them until a time when the world can come together again.
Our momentum and impact is building at a time when it is needed most. I hope you will consider a gift of financial support to deepen and reinforce the resources we provide to our shared community.
With warm regards,
Donna Lowry, MD, CEO / President, Ready for School
P.S. In celebration of family and Kindergarten included here is a page taken from the roadmap project created with Black River and Kent County this summer. We hope it inspires reflection on the power of families by picturing your own.
HERE IS SOME OF WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO!
2020 SUMMER PIVOT: A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS
This summer communities became classrooms in which children and their families learn together:
Neighborhood parks were transformed into learning spaces and family places
Siblings became classmates | Parents became teachers | Books became bonding moments
We retooled readiness by combining a bilingual toolkit with school supplies, quick learning activities, and neighborhood family pop-up events facilitated by teachers.
A recap of local impact by the numbers: 70 families, 90% with financial need; 20% English Language Learners; 3 community park settings; 5 school partners; 4 community partners; and 1 contract community partner.
KINDERGARTEN ROADMAP WITH BLACK RIVER SCHOOLS:
Research shows that a child’s start in kindergarten will be smoother when he or she has a strong community network that works together to share information, resources, and opportunities.
Ready for School and Black River put this research into practice by instilling a pilot project of creating a bilingual roadmap to reinforce connections for each incoming Kindergarten student. The roadmap prompts thoughtful questions of parents and early care providers while empowering children in the transition process. The result provides insight and direction for kindergarten teachers (not to mention improved academic, social, and attendance outcomes).
LINKING LITERACY AND HEALTH:
In early 2020, the National organization Reach Out and Read, a national evidence-based model for linking literacy and health, recruited Ready for School to lead expansion across the region and state. As Reach Out and Read West Michigan we equip pediatric care providers with multilingual resources to increase early literacy skills by modeling and prescribing reading. Providers receive training, ongoing quality improvement, and tracking with special consideration for under-served populations. This is a growth opportunity for Ready for School and a community win.
Ready for School's nearly 10 year partnership with local pediatric care providers culminates in Reach Out and Read. With colleagues in the National Reach Out and Read network taking notice of our success on the Lakeshore, it's a best-practice led by our local first-class medical champions.
KINDERGARTEN TRANSITION PILOT:
With the onset of COVID 19, our collective reality has changed, but Ready for School’s commitment to coming alongside our school partners continues and is more important now
than ever before. This fall, school partners across our communities will join Ready for School in
an educator collaborative opportunity designed for students who may not have started school “ready” this fall, but with extra resources, could more quickly catch-up with their peers.
Funding for this project is from the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Covid-19 Community Stabilization Fund to take what we’ve learned about increasing kindergarten readiness and applying it during the first semester of the traditional school year.
Stay tuned for updates as this project develops!