Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative is the umbrella organization for seven neighborhood based organizations including Baxter Community Center, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, New Hope Baptist Church, South End Community Outreach Ministries (SECOM), Steepletown Neighborhood Services, The Other Way Ministries and United Methodist Community Church.
These organizations came together with a shared vision to ensure that all children have access to quality early programs. ELNC, through this system and separately, have developed strategies aimed at ensuring that our vulnerable neighborhoods in Grand Rapids receive an equitable share of Local, State and National Early Childhood Education Funding.
According to published statistics, 80 percent of the children entering the Grand Rapids Public School kindergarten from our target neighborhoods were being assessed as not ready for kindergarten. For many children, due to multiple barriers, the option of going to a quality preschool to get ready for kindergarten was not a viable option. Most of these children are children of color (African Americans and Latino children) With this fact as a primary motivator, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided the financial resources necessary to ensure that all children would have the opportunity to attend a quality preschool in their neighborhood.
BENEFIT TO THE COMMUNITY
Investing in quality early childhood education has significant return on investment for our
community. The payoff manifests itself in three different ways.
• First, children who are ready to learn will succeed in school. Lack of readiness takes a huge fiscal bit out of the school system. In 2010, 5.6% of kindergartners in Grand
Rapids Public Schools were held back from first grade. With slightly more than 1,700 students in kindergarten, and an average annual cost per student of $12,498, that means just under $1.2 million spent - in kindergarten alone. This doesn't even begin to address retention in later grades. In wealthier communities where the majority of children bring sufficient skills to the classroom, children who are not ready can be supported and lifted up by their peers and teachers. When the numbers are too overwhelming, that cannot happen. Everyone falls behind. Everyone -including all the students, the teachers, and the community - pays.
• Second, children who successfully learn can break the cycle of poverty for their families. They grow up to earn a living wage, and, in the process, learn what is needed to become successful parents themselves. They break the cycle of poor achievement and poverty because they have the tools and resources to do so.
• And finally, children who are prepared to learn when they enter school have a far higher likelihood of graduating and contributing to the community. The High Scope Educational
Research Foundation has confirmed that increased earnings and tax revenues exceed investments in early education programs by a ratio of 4:1. In addition, they also found that every $1 spent on quality early childhood care and education for low-income children saves the state as much as $17 on welfare, criminal justice, special education and other social service costs. And in addition to all of that...what is the opportunity cost of undeveloped talent? Can we afford to lose the potential cure for cancer, or the world's next great composer, or the next technological breakthrough, because the child who might have been born with the skills did not have the chance to fulfill their potential?
BENEFIT TO THE AUDIENCE - 5 IMPORTANT SCHOOL READINESS TIPS
1. Read, Read and Read some more!
2. Talk to your children throughout the day explain activities, ask questions, engage them in conversation- talk about letters and words they see, and connect with the sound they make, ask and answer questions, and explore topics of interest together
3. Encourage their curiosity about the world they live in. Take walks and talk about what they see - like a butterfly- you can talk about the process of how a butterfly begins as a caterpillar
4. Promote good health and physical skills- balanced diet, plenty of rest, large muscle activities like climbing, dancing, running, balancing, small muscle activities like coloring, painting, drawing and cutting
5. Build children's confidence through making choices, trying new things and hearing praise for efforts- working alone and with others to finish tasks, taking care of own things and needs, learning to problem solve, share and cooperate by playing with others