Heart of Indiana United Way Supports Children’s First Teachers
Children’s ability to read, and understand what they are reading, by the end third grade is the greatest predictor of community success. This pivotal time is when children transition from learning how to read, to being students who read to learn.
Reading then plays a role in every subject. Children who have been successful in math in their early years find themselves faced with story problems and must be able to read to find the answers. Students must now read about science and social studies to answer questions. Students still struggling with reading become at risk of falling behind in every subject.
Reading success begins well before third grade and is so much more than learning A-B-Cs. Reading begins at birth—when our brains are making connections at a rapid rate.
Research shows us that 70% of brain development happens before the age of three. When we talk to our babies, sing to them, and read to them, the neurons in their brains make important foundational connections and shape their future success with words.
In fact, by the time children are five and are starting school, 90% percent of their brains have developed. This means we family members are our children’s first and most important teachers. This is why United Way is on a mission to support families and children across the Heart of Indiana.
United Way’s early learning staff experts, Lynn Silvey and Tina Hammond, are helping families engage children with words. In addition to helping babies’ brains make critical connections, Lynn and Tina are supporting our communities’ young readers through United Way’s direct programs.
This fall, Delaware County’s successful Read United program launches at Edgewood and Anderson Elementary Schools. Through Read United, Lynn and Tina will pair volunteers with early readers to ensure students are making this critical reading transition. This program is brought to Anderson Community Schools thanks to United Way donors and a grant from the Madison County Community Foundation.
Donors and volunteers are working with United Way to help increase access to books and words in Madison County. This month, NTN employees came together to assemble Literacy Kits. These books and activities will go home with third graders at Edgewood and Anderson Elementary Schools over fall break. They include an enjoyable book with fun activities to help families make reading time a special time together.
United Way is also partnering with Anderson Rotary Club to install Little Free Libraries throughout the city. These “take a book and leave a book” lending libraries, built out of refurbished Herald Bulletin newspaper dispensers, are installed throughout Anderson Parks and other locations.
While reading is critical to children’s development, we continue to support families to help ensure their success by working holistically to address the interconnected issues of health, education, and financial stability. When we collect and distribute diapers, help neighbors with energy assistance, and make sure babies and families have access to healthcare, we are eradicating disparities and inequities—and empowering children’s first teachers.