Focusing on the Youngest in Our Community
For years, the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville has recognized the importance of focusing on the youngest in our community. Nationally, United Way Worldwide has a goal to cut the number of high school dropouts in half by 2018. Making sure our children have a good start in life is critical to meeting this goal. Towards this end, United Way works with other organizations in the community through an early childhood collaborative called Smart Beginnings of Martinsville and Henry County, a partnership of public and private agencies, businesses and individuals working to enhance the quality of services for the young children.
Ready for School, Ready for Life
The purpose of Smart Beginnings is to respond to community needs related to school readiness, including making sure parents are aware of community resources and understand how to help their children become ready for kindergarten. In addition, parents receive help they need to be able to recognize developmental milestones and receive follow-up, as necessary. To learn more, visit www.smartbeginningsmhc.org
Prescription to Read
The United Way also partners with local medical providers to improve literacy development. Reach Out and Read is a program designed to get books into the homes of children and encourages parents and caregivers to read to children. Over 10,000 books are distributed annually through the program, along with 200 literacy totes to new moms, to encourage reading to young children.
Improving the Quality of Childcare
With the majority of a child's brain developing during the first five years of life, the quality of care a child receives during this time is critical. Children with access to high quality early learning experiences are more likely to acquire the skills they need to enter kindergarten ready to succeed and adapt to new learning and social environments.
United Way's Quality Enhancement Initiative works with child care providers to assist them in providing quality learning environments for children. Through monthly workshops, providers are given practical and concrete plans for guiding children's learning and development. In 2012, this initiative provided 650 hours of professional development training for 70 child care providers, positiveily impacting 1,100 preschoolers locally.