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Grant aids Whidbey kids in early learning

With $25,000 in funding from Foundation for Early Learning, Cathy Niiro, with United Way of Island County, and her fellow members of the Partners in Island County for Early Learning coalition are launching a new program to prepare children for kindergarten.

During the next 18 months, this coalition of educators, parents and community leaders will be organizing professional development trainings for area child care providers and elementary school teachers.

Niiro said the goal of this new program is to align services between the child care setting and elementary schools and to better identify 3- and 4-year-olds who need additional support before they enter kindergarten.

During the first two years, the Island County coalition, along with community partners, plans to host 14 trainings reaching 450 early learning professionals and elementary teachers.

“The grant that we were awarded from Foundation of Early Learning will allow us to increase the number of Island County children who are ready to succeed in kindergarten by implementing a countywide school readiness program with pre-k, kindergarten, early childhood educators, parents, providers and children around early learning literacy principals,” Niiro said.

Since 2008, Foundation for Early Learning has awarded grants to the coalition totaling $48,000 to fund early learning services and infrastructure in Island County.

The Partners in Island County for Early Learning coalition will also be hosting two-week long summer trainings to strengthen the literacy skills of children who might need additional support before they enter kindergarten.

“The whole emphasis is wrap-around support. We want to extend what is happening in school districts to providers and parents. So that what’s happening in one setting is aligned with another learning environment,” program manager Bess Windecker-Nelson said.

Partners in Island County for Early Learning is a coalition of staff from Island County school districts, South Whidbey Children’s Center, ECEAP, Head Start, Sno-Isle Library, Fleet & Family Readiness at NAS Whidbey, Health & Safety Network, Toddler Learning Center, Island County Public Health and United Way. This coalition has been collaborating since 2001 to improve the learning opportunities of young children.

Foundation for Early Learning is a public nonprofit that provides grants, publications and resources to support the learning of children, birth through age five, in Washington state.

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