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April 23, 2015

Early Learning Session Feedback Highlights Community Areas of Interest

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

When Ralph Smith, the managing director of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, visited our region in January, he emphasized that improving reading proficiency for low-income children is not just the responsibility of schools or of parents, but rather it takes an engaged community working together collaboratively to ensure children are equipped to succeed.

This collective commitment to take steps toward lasting change was evident recently when nearly 200 local community members attended The Patterson Foundation’s learning session — The Essential Question: Why Does Early Learning Matter? –presented by Wilma Hamilton Delp, retired superintendent of Sarasota County Schools, and Lynette Edwards, retired assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Manatee County. Attendees represented all sectors within our region — from nonprofit and government leaders to philanthropic foundations and businesses.

The goals of the knowledge-sharing presentation were to:

  • Increase community awareness about the lifelong benefits of providing quality early-learning experiences to all children
  • Review key early-learning research about children from birth to grade three
  • Review national, state, and local data about student performance in reading

A follow-up survey revealed that participants were appreciative of the opportunity to both learn and share and are eager to see additional sessions delivered in variety of formats, including panels, guest speakers and action-planning workshops. In particular, people expressed an interest to learn more about: successful parenting, summer learning loss and kindergarten readiness.  The most common suggestions offered in the open-ended questions addressed:

  • Parent engagement and education
  • Communication and awareness
  • Broader community involvement and cooperation

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing a summary of the key content from the learning session, as well as stories about how our community is coming together to remove barriers and expand opportunities to assure success for all children in our region.

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