Grow With Me
Escambia County School Readiness Coalition, Inc. dba Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County
The Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County’s mission is to identify and meet the needs of children and families in order to lay the foundation for lifetime success by maximizing each child's potential, preparing children to enter school ready to learn, and helping families achieve economic self-sufficiency. In 1999, the Florida Legislature publicly funded early education and childcare programs, and established oversight by the Florida Partnership for School Readiness. Local communities were given the authority to plan for the future by focusing resources where they are most effective: the needs of children birth to five years. In 2000, Escambia County created the local School Readiness Coalition. The Early Learning Coalition’s (ELC) primary function is the oversight of funding for subsidized child care known as school readiness and the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, and the additional responsibilities such as developmental screenings and assessment, technical assistance and monitoring, vision and health screenings partnering with Health Department nurses, and child care resource and referral. Current programs include School Readiness for low income family child care assistance, Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK), Inclusion/Behavioral services for children with special needs, various screenings and assessments and child care resource and referral services.
On average, 1,000 of the 3,000 five year olds in Escambia County show up for their first day of kindergarten already behind their kindergarten classmates. Brain research shows that 85% of the child’s brain is developed during the first three years of life. Inspired by the Thirty Million Words Project, the Grow With Me 1 (GWM1) was born as a quality improvement project using assessments, professional development and coaching in infant/toddler classrooms that focuses on the teachers in the birth to three-year old age group. IMPACT 100 funds will provide approximately 114 Nemours BrightStart! (NBS!) Toolkits for GWM1 classrooms and weekly coaching for GWM1 teachers and allow for expansion into three and four-year old classrooms, Grow With Me 2 (GWM2). Using the NBS! Toolkit, the teachers will be provided with scripts and language development tools to create rich experiences that support development.
Approximately 1,000 children in the birth to three-year old age group are considered high risk. Supporting these youngest learners with language and literacy skills greatly enhances their future reading success. Early-learning teachers are most often the least experienced in delivering high quality language-based interactions, but are the most influential. ELC coaches will work with GWM1 teachers to develop lesson plans and an implementation calendar, building teaching skills, modeling behavior and practicing new skills. It is established that all infants and toddlers will pick up and mirror the language that their teachers use with them. In the three and four-year old classrooms (GWM2), the teachers will emphasize the four essential reading readiness skills of oral language, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and beginning writing skills. Families will be impacted by the new language experiences as their children begin to repeat songs and stories heard in the classroom or witness an interaction with an infant and the infant’s responses. Additional free resources are shared with parents such as articles on brain research, early learning, and reading, developmentally appropriate book lists, and reading readiness milestones for children birth to five years old. NBS! is not offered anywhere in Escambia County and combined with the GWM1 project, it will be the first project of this caliber in the nation. The Grow With Me project will be a huge step in the initiative to improve kindergarten readiness for the children of Escambia County.