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Grade-Level Reading Requirement in the Alabama Literacy Act

In an op-ed published May 21st, A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon wrote, “The bottom line is that children who cannot read on grade level by the fourth grade are unlikely to graduate.” Dixon wrote this in support of Alabama House Bill 388 — the Alabama Literacy Act — which would require that children not be promoted to the 4th grade if they have not met the 3rd-grade-level reading proficiency standards.

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) and its partners statewide agree that all children should be prepared for success in school and beyond, and they are working hard to elevate awareness around the importance of children developing early language and literacy skills; even before they are born. APC’s “Talk With Me Baby” and “Read Right From The Start” programs effectively promote and encourage the necessary early literacy activities for all children to develop healthy language and literacy skills during the first 5 years – the most critical time for their brain development.

Read more about the APC “Talk With Me Baby” and “Read Right From The Start” programs, and help share the vital resources they provide for parents, early child care professionals, home visitors, and teachers in 0-5 classrooms. It will take every person who engages with moms-to-be, families, babies and toddlers to impact the trajectory of every child’s life – reducing the number of children who would need to be held back in the 3rd grade.

Click here to read the op-ed published by Alabama Daily News.

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Alabama Partnership for Children Awarded $26,000 for New Books by Nonprofit “First Book”

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) was awarded $26,000 for new books that will expand the APC’s mission: to work in partnership with families and organizations to ensure that all Alabama children (birth to five) get everything they need to develop to their fullest potential.

“We want every child in Alabama to have access to a variety of age appropriate books, which will help give them a strong foundation for building emerging literacy skills,” said Gail Piggott, the APC executive director.

The APC applied for the grant in collaboration with Reach Out and Read-Alabama, the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, and the office of the Governor as an effort to help bolster the Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading. APC will use the funds in partnership with Reach Out and Read-Alabama to put books in the hands of children and their families in under-resourced communities.

“In launching the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, my mission was to promote literacy among at-risk children. That also means providing access to quality books,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “I’m proud that this First Book project brings us closer to reaching that goal.”

Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States.1 Research indicates that just the presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’ – with one community having only a single book per as many as 830 children.2  Additionally, members of the First Book Network, who exclusively serve children in need, have indicated that without First Book, the children they serve would have access to very few books, if any at all.3

“With this award, our pediatric healthcare providers will continue to prescribe new, high-quality books to the children we serve,” said Polly McClure, Reach Out and Read-Alabama  Statewide Coordinator. “Providing these books at checkups encourage parents to read together daily, which is essential in literacy and language development in their child.”

First Book, the non-profit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education for children in need, awarded the funds as part of its OMG Books Awards: Offering More Great Books to Spark Innovation. This national program will give more than $4.7 million in funding to distribute 1.5 million brand new books and eBooks to children living in low-income communities in 33 U.S. states and territories.

“We know that access to books and eBooks makes a significant difference in a child’s future success,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO, and cofounder. “Children do not thrive in deeply under-resourced environments, and too many of the schools and programs have far too little. This deprivation has long-term consequences for the children, their families, their communities and our nation. This could not be more urgent. With the OMG Books Awards, First Book, the Alabama Partnership for Children and Reach Out and Read-Alabama are investing not only in the future of the kids we’re reaching, but in the overall wellbeing of our nation.”

Awardees will use the funding to select books from the First Book Marketplace (www.fbmarketplace.com), First Book’s award-winning eCommerce platform, that best meet the needs of the children they serve.  Alabama was among 9 states in the first cycle of awards. Additional awards will be granted throughout 2019.

Eligible educators, librarians, child care providers, and others serving children in need can sign up to receive resources from First Book outside of OMG Books Awards at firstbook.org/join. For more information, please visit firstbook.org.


 1 Sikora, et al. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003
2Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525
3First Book Member Survey, 2016

News Release Contacts:
Gail Piggott, Alabama Partnership for Children, 334-271-0304
Polly McClure, Reach Out and Read-Alabama, 205-223-0097
Dianna Tullier, AL Department of Early Childhood Education, 334-224-3171
Nick Moore, Education Policy Advisor to Governor Kay Ivey, 334-353-0705
Melanie Boyer, First Book, 202-639-0114, mboyer@firstbook.org


 

The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit SmartStartAlabama.org

Reach Out and Read-Alabama is a program of the Alabama Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics. The evidence-based Reach Out and Read program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. Contact Polly McClure for more information: visit www.roralabama.org, or email pmcclure@roralabama.org.

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education is the state home visiting lead agency that houses the First Teacher Home Visiting Program and First Class Pre-K. The evidence-based models of service delivery used focus on improving health outcomes for families and children, as well as better preparing both parents and children for entry into the education system. For more information, visit www.children.alabama.gov.

First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through sustainable, market-driven models, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by making new, high-quality books and educational resources — including sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more — affordable to its member network of more than 400,000 registered educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more learning materials than any other program of its kind: 175 million books and educational resources worth more than $1.5 billion, reaching more than 5 million children annually across the U.S. and Canada.   

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator that brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources.

For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter: @firstbook.

 

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Registration is Now Closed for Project LAUNCH 2019 Summit

Registration is closed for the 2019 Alabama Project LAUNCH Early Childhood Summit that will be held on May 8-9 at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you need information or have questions, please contact Sarah-Ellen Thompson; toll-free 1-866-711-4025 or sthompson@smartstartalabama.org.

ABOUT THE SUMMIT:

The Summit will focus on strengthening adult capacities to ensure children’s optimal development, and is open to all early childhood professionals, mental health practitioners, physicians, educators, home visitors, or any other professionals across the state working directly with children birth to eight years old.

Project LAUNCH, which stands for Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health, promotes the wellness of young children from birth to eight years by addressing the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of their development. The Alabama Partnership for Children partners with the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and Child Development Resources of The University of Alabama for Project LAUNCH’s local implementation in Tuscaloosa.

The Summit includes programs on: CARE – Child Adult Relationship Enhancement; Brain Development; Reflective Supervision – Does It Have a Place in Clinical Supervision; Brain Architecture Game; Calming Tools for Use in Early Childhood Settings; Behavior 101 – A Practical Guide to Lying, Cheating, Stealing, Manipulation, Violence/Aggression & Hoarding; and Early Childcare Providers – Supporting the Whole Family.

Registration costs $30 for the Professional Development Institute, $35 for the Project LAUNCH Summit, and $60 for both days. CEU certificates are also available.

For more information about Alabama Project LAUNCH at the state level, please contact Sarah-Ellen Thompson; toll-free 1-866-711-4025 or sthompson@smartstartalabama.org. For information about Alabama Project LAUNCH in Tuscaloosa, please contact Caroline Branton; 205-348-0459 or ccbranton@ches.ua.edu.

Click Here for more about Project LAUNCH.

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Thanks for Joining Hands During Week of the Young Child

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC) held its annual “Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child” event April 9th to raise awareness of the most important time of all children’s lives — the first five years.

“We take this time each year to thank every legislator for supporting and prioritizing programs that serve our youngest children,” said APC executive director, Gail Piggott. “They understand that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to ensuring their healthy development. Investing in strong families, early childhood health, and quality early learning programs are necessary to improve outcomes in Alabama.”

Week of the Young Child spotlights the need to make early childhood education and development a state priority. It also brings awareness to the programs and partnerships in Alabama that are vital to ensuring all children, their families, teachers, and child care providers, have access to every resource they need to be successful.

Child advocates and volunteers delivered to every state legislator packets, which contained handprints made and decorated by preschoolers from around the state. It also provided important information on several programs that serve children including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, Help Me Grow Alabama, T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, and Project LAUNCH.

The APC coordinates the annual Joining Hands for Week of the Young Child event in conjunction with the national Week of the Young Child which is designed to bring attention to the needs of young children ages birth to five and the critical importance of the first five years of life.

 

On March 27th, Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation making April 8 – 12, 2019, the Week of the Young Child in Alabama. The proclamation states that “high-quality early childhood services represent a worthy commitment to our children’s future and an investment in improved schools and a brighter future for Alabama.”

 

Child advocates from across the state volunteer each year for this Joining Hands event to help collect handprints that children have traced and decorated. APC staff and volunteers deliver them to the Alabama Legislative offices with the hope of meeting personally with the elected officials representing their districts.

Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), kicked off the day by welcoming the event’s volunteers, and thanking them for spending their day focused on making early childhood education a priority for legislators. ADECE provided the meeting space for volunteers to gather and coordinate the deliveries.

“I look forward to this event every year, and I am so grateful to the volunteers that help bring attention to the needs of Alabama’s young children,” said Sec. Ross. “Seeing the children’s handprints go up on doors all over the State House is inspiring and encouraging. We thank our legislators for making support for the programs that promote the best possible start for children – during the most critical first five years of their lives – a high priority.”

Allison Muhlendorf, the executive director for the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA), shared with the volunteers ASRA’s work to expand Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-k program statewide, and the progress that has been made thanks to their partners and the support of the Alabama Legislature.

“I proudly stand with the Alabama Partnership for Children in shining a light on the needs of young children in our state,” said Muhlendorf. “Alabama’s early childhood community is united in our desire to provide the high-quality care and support to children and their families beginning at birth. I was very pleased to hear from many lawmakers that they are supportive of a comprehensive early childhood vision and are prioritizing new funding to help expand Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program to more families as part of this commitment.”

Stephen Woerner, the executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, also shared support and information during the event, outlining VOICES legislative priorities that, if embraced by state leaders, will have a positive impact on services to Alabama’s children and families.

“VOICES for Alabama’s Children is delighted to support Week of the Young Child and the Alabama Partnership for Children,” said Woerner. “Our youngest Alabamians need powerful advocates and special consideration. Week of the Young Child is a tremendous opportunity to engage with legislators and decision makers to ensure that these most vulnerable and important residents are accounted for and considered in all decisions.”

The Week of the Young Child™ is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.org) to spotlight early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities. 

The Alabama Partnership for Children is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for Alabama’s children from birth to 5 years of age. This public-private partnership focuses on finding ways to use the state’s limited resources most efficiently to ensure that every Alabama child will have an opportunity to succeed in life. For more information, visit www.SmartStartAlabama.org

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Welcome to Our New Website!

The APC staff is very excited to share with you our new website! It’s been a long-time in the making!

As APC continues to expand and add new programs and services for young children and families, the website upgrade helps provide improved access to resources and information through a more user-friendly navigation. This new site is also mobile-friendly, allowing APC’s resources to be easily accessed from any mobile device.

The navigational menu is located on every page, and it links to all areas of the site. From this menu pages are organized to meet the common search areas for our programs, resources, and contact information. For example, a visitor can quickly find; the Alabama Blueprint for Zero to Five statewide strategy, links to connect with Help Me Grow resources, links to the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program, links to resources for families, new program links for Early Language and Literacy, and much more.

Please browse around and send us your feedback; especially if you experience any problems finding what you need. We will continually work to improve and enhance your experience with our presence online.

Click here to start browsing from the homepage. 

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‘Talk With Me Baby’ in Alabama

Collie Wells
Talk With Me Baby Professional Development Coordinator

 

Alabama is known for lots of things; Auburn and Alabama football, tailgating, hot, humid summers and our Southern hospitality. Wouldn’t it be great if we also became known as a state that successfully embraced the power of early language and literacy? It’s an exciting time in our state with an increased interest in young children and their emotional, physical, and mental health, with an added emphasis on brain development. Many initiatives exist that are making great strides in improving the health and wellness of children.

To assist in that effort, Alabama Partnership for Children is excited about a new program designed to promote babies brain development by building their language skills.  We have partnered with the Georgia Department of Public Health to offer Talk With Me Baby in our state.

Research tells us that the more words a baby hears during the early years of life, the faster they learn to read and write. The basic focus of Talk With Me Baby is to participate in intentional conversations with babies and children. Even a 2-week-old child is communicating with you when he cries to get your attention in order to address his basic needs. The coos and babbling you hear from an infant provide opportunities for a back-and-forth exchange, and lay the foundation for language development.

Talking, reading, playing, singing, and the daily routines of life provide the optimal time to engage in conversation. Look for conversational opportunities throughout the day to talk with your child, such as in the car, on a walk, at the park, at the grocery store, at the doctor, during meal time, during bath time, and at bedtime. You will be building their brain through early talk.

As Donald Woods Winnecott said, "There is no such thing as a baby; there is a baby and someone else."  Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or a child care provider, you can be that “someone else” who finds those everyday moments to build a baby’s brain.

Click here to find out more about the Talk With Me Baby program in Alabama, and to link to resources on the national Talk With Me Baby website.

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Early Childhood Education Positions

 

The Alabama Partnership for Children (APC), the state-level nonprofit agency focused on young children and their families, has multiple openings in exciting new programs to support high-quality child care and children’s early literacy. Entry-level as well as program coordinator positions are available. The positions are full-time, and minimum qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a human services field, with experience in childcare/early childhood, training and professional development, and data management preferred. The APC offers an opportunity to work with multiple state agency partners, local service providers, parents/families, and advocates to deliver high-quality programs and services that promote young children’s optimum development. Full-time positions include 100% coverage of health and dental insurance, and a retirement plan is available after one year of successful employment. The agency observes state and federal holidays and has generous annual and sick leave policies. Highly organized and dedicated candidates with a strong work ethic who want to work with a high energy group of supportive professionals in a family-friendly environment are encouraged to apply.

For consideration, please send a resume and letter of interest to:

APC Employment, 2595 Bell Road, Montgomery, AL  36117, or email info@smartstartalabama.org with the subject “Employment”.

EOE M/V/F/D

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Blueprint for Strong Families, School Readiness, and Prosperity Materials Released

 

This 2018 election cycle is important, as all of our state’s administrative offices and up to one-third of our state legislature are up for election. From the Governor’s office down through many county and city officials, we want investments in young children and families to be a primary focus of those in leadership roles. Research proves that early investments pay huge dividends for years to come in better child and adult outcomes. Our message is to “invest in success, rather than paying for failure”.

Most of the concerns our state faces have their roots in early childhood when 90% of the brain is developed and when the potential for building a strong body, mind, and spirit are optimal. Our focus on building and strengthening families is a critical basis on which everything else is built; young children’s health (physical and mental) is a predictor of adult health and well-being outcomes; and high quality early learning experiences are the only proven way to bridge the wide gaps and disparities between what young children know and are prepared to do when they enter school.

Through the Blueprint for Zero to Five framework, a statewide advisory council studies the best data available on Alabama’s young children, examines best practices and successful programs, and establishes priorities for collectively working to improve the well-being of our youngest citizens. These priorities and the group’s recommended investments are included in the Blueprint for Strong Families, School Readiness, and Prosperity found at: http://www.smartstartalabama.org/about/zero-to-five/. We have also included some potential questions you might ask state and local candidates for public office. Your voice matters, and we hope you will promote what we believe are the investments needed to improve our state’s future. If you would like printed copies in folders to share with state and community leaders, groups in your community, or others who might promote our messages, please call 1-866-711-4025 or email info@smartstartalabama.org.

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New Federal Report Endorses National Help Me Grow Model Already Existing in Alabama

 

A new joint policy statement, released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, includes a recommendation for states to adopt a centralized intake, screening and referral process, specifically naming Help Me Grow® as an effective strategy, a national model from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center up and running in Alabama.

The report, which encourages greater collaboration between federal home visiting programs and federally-required state early intervention programs, notes that Help Me Grow® is a “non-federal system that assists states in identifying children at risk for developmental and behavioral concerns and then helps families find community-based programs and services. Help Me Grow is a system that helps to build collaboration across sectors, including health care, early care and education, and family support.”

Help Me Grow Alabama is a program of the Alabama Partnership for Children as an affiliate of the Help Me Grow National NetworkHelp Me Grow Alabama expanded statewide in 2016 and currently serves all 67 counties in the state through funding from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education through the Preschool Development Grant, the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health through a Project LAUNCH Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association. Now, every family in Alabama is able to dial 2-1-1, ask for Help Me Grow Alabama and  speak with a care coordinator who will answer questions, connect them to services, follow up to ensure a connection is made and enroll them in developmental surveillance if interested. The United Way’s 2-1-1 Connects Alabama is a statewide network of regional call centers that provide free easy access to health and human services available throughout Alabama.

“Help Me Grow is a system model that provides a framework for ensuring all children and their families are linked to the services and supports needed to thrive,” said Kimberly Martini-Carvell, executive director of the Help Me Grow National Center. “This policy statement endorses that screening should not happen independent of an integrated system of care that has a strong ability to link children and families to effective services.”

Nearly one-third of Alabama parents say they have a concern about their child’s health or development. Help Me Grow Alabama provides the critical service of identifying concerns early when interventions are less costly and more effective. Health care and early learning providers also use Help Me Grow Alabama to refer families for additional assistance and developmental screenings.

“Alabama was an early adopter of this simple and effective model for identifying and addressing developmental concerns early in a child’s life. As the evidence emerges, Help Me Grow is now identified as an effective and cost-efficient program as indicated by this endorsement from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Working with our state’s 2-1-1 Network and other local and regional partners, our relatively small investment results in huge cost savings and better developmental outcomes for young children in Alabama. That’s a win-win for all,” according to Gail Piggott, executive director, Alabama Partnership for Children.

More information about Help Me Grow Alabama can be viewed here: http://www.helpmegrowalabama.org.

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APC Receives $600,000 Grant to Increase Access to Quality Child Care Statewide

 

The Alabama Partnership for Children has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to increase access to quality early care and education programs statewide by educating parents, child care providers and the community about the benefits of regulated child care. The grant will support the Alabama Partnership for Children’s work of promoting public awareness through the Don’t Be In The Dark About Child Care campaign and implementing a technical assistance program to support license-exempt child care centers in obtaining a license from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).

Due to state legislation enacted in 1984, Alabama is one of the few states that allows certain child care centers to legally operate exempt from a license or inspection for minimum health and safety standards. In recent years, the number of licensed child care centers has continued to decline while the number of license-exempt child care centers has continued to increase. According to the 2016 Alabama Kids Count Data Book published by VOICES for Alabama’s Children, there are currently 1,009 licensed and 942 license-exempt child care centers in operation.

“Far too many Alabama children, including a disproportionate share of low-income children, are enrolled in unregulated child care, but a more alarming truth is that parents are completely unaware. There is an assumption and false assurance that child care programs legally operating have been inspected and are monitored,” said Gail Piggott, executive director of the Alabama Partnership for Children.

Don’t Be In The Dark About Child Care, a partnership campaign of the Alabama Partnership for Children and VOICES for Alabama’s Children promotes public awareness about the threat of unregulated child care to the health and safety of Alabama’s youngest, most vulnerable population. The campaign primarily provides information and resources to parents and families as child care consumers, but it also promotes a broader understanding among the general population about the deficiency in the quality of Alabama’s early care and education system.

A fundamental component of the Alabama Partnership for Children’s work will include providing a technical assistance program to assist license-exempt child care centers in meeting minimum health and safety standards and obtaining a DHR license. “As Alabama parents become more aware about the concerns of unregulated child care, they are making more informed decisions on the child care they choose, and we hope license-exempt programs see this as encouragement to obtain a license and ensure they’re meeting basic health and safety standards,” said Piggott.

According to DHR’s Subsidized Child Care Statistics, there is a current shortage of infant and toddler child care options. The Alabama Partnership for Children’s technical assistance program will focus on supporting existing license-exempt child care centers in order to begin building the supply of quality child care available to working families.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funding prioritizes efforts to increase the number of licensed and inspected child care as a necessary step in improving the overall quality of Alabama’s early care and education system. The Alabama Partnership for Children’s work supported by this two-year grant begins January 2017.

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