Early Childhood

How children grow and develop — physically, mentally and socially — during their early years forms the foundation for their academic performance once they enter school. A weak foundation, more often than not, leads to poor grades and slow advancement in school.

Many studies have shown that early childhood education programs deliver significant, measurable returns. For example, one North Carolina study found that disadvantaged children who received early childhood education had lower blood pressure, lower levels of heart disease risk factors and other positive health outcomes, than their peers.

In 2015, Impact Alamance invested $65,850 in Early Childhood initiatives, including efforts to spread critical pre-reading and early literacy skills that have been proven to help children do better in school. We also conducted a baseline study to better understand the health challenges young children entering the school system face. We expect these investments to grow substantially in the future.

 

2015 Early Childhood Grants – $65,850

Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Reach Out and Read Carolinas

Identifying Young Students' Health Problems

Every year, the Alamance Burlington School System collects a wealth of data on new kindergarteners. Parents and pediatricians fill out forms that the schools keep on file so they can understand what health problems the children might have. 

In 2015, Impact Alamance partnered with Elon University to collect all that information and enter it (minus individually identifying information) into a database, so schools and the community could better understand the health challenges young students might face, and how those might affect their academic success.

Jean Rattigan-Rohr, associate professor in the Elon University School of Education, director of the university’s Center for Access and Success and executive director of community partnerships, oversaw the study. 

“What we found is that many children in the county have asthma and allergies,” she says. “There are also significant obesity problems among young children and some issues with speech language delays.”

The data helps establish a baseline as the community works on ways to improve the health and school readiness of young children. It will also help guide future Impact Alamance grants.

Supporting Early Literacy

Read to your children. The message from the research couldn’t be clearer. Children whose parents read to them develop language skills earlier, learn to read in school faster and more easily, and ultimately do better in school. 

But children from poor and minority households are much less likely to get this rich, early exposure to reading. Often it’s because those parents don’t have books or convenient access to libraries, and they may not have been read to themselves as children and so may not realize its value.

For almost 10 years, the Alamance County Partnership for Children has been funding the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in seven elementary school districts. The program provides children from birth to five years of age a new, age-appropriate book every month. Once the family is registered, the book simply comes in the mail.

But the Partnership didn’t have the funds to offer it to all children in Alamance County. In 2015, an Impact Alamance grant enabled the Partnership to extend the program to all families in the county.

“We had about 750 kids before Impact Alamance’s grant,” says Carrie Theall, executive director of the Partnership. After receiving the grant, the Partnership enlisted community partners, including the Burlington Police Department and Alamance Regional Medical Center, to get more kids signed up. Now, more than 1,900 children are participating, and the number continues to grow.

In addition to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Impact Alamance has also funded Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based program that encourages early childhood literacy. That program, which was started by the Partnership with Smart Start funds, enlists pediatricians to talk to parents about the importance of reading to their young children, and provides doctors books they can give to their patients. 

Reach Out and Read was launched at Burlington Pediatrics. Dr. Hillary Carroll, one of the physicians there, is using the Impact Alamance funding to enlist other pediatricians at other practices.

“When you do something that’s this inexpensive and this easy, it’s not a cure-all,” ... “but it sure is a big help and it’s going to make a big difference.”
— Carrie Theall, Executive Director of the Partnership