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Advancing Early Childhood Literacy by a Mile in Colorado

by Christine Benero

More than a quarter of Colorado's third-graders are not reading at grade level, a concerning statistic as early childhood literacy is one of the most important predictors of school success and high school graduation. Stakeholders across diverse sectors including federal, state, and local governments, educators, nonprofits, business leaders, and foundations have teamed up to improving childhood literacy as a top priority for the state.

Building on this collaborative work to ensure Colorado's children are prepared for school, Mile High United Way along with the Social Innovation Fund has announced $3.6 million in funding to eleven grantee organizations working to strengthen early childhood literacy across Colorado.

The funding is part of an investment made possible by the Social Innovation Fund, a unique program at the Corporation for National and Community Service which mobilizes public and private resources to grow promising, innovative community-based solutions that have evidence of compelling impact in three areas of priority need: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.

Mile High United Way last year was selected as one of only five organizations nationwide to receive a Social Innovation Fund grant from CNCS. Following the announcement, I embarked upon a road trip across the state with Lt. Governor Joe Garcia to start a dialogue on early childhood literacy, engaging hundreds of families, teachers, and community members on the work being done to help ensure Colorado children can read at grade level by age eight.

From the dialogue, the idea of Literacy Week was born. From February 27-March 2, Literacy Week seeks to inform Coloradans on how they can become involved in the literacy movement, culminating on Read Across America Day, where individuals, young and old, will celebrate the life of Dr. Seuss through readings of his books.

To build upon the success of the Social Innovation Fund, we must continue to educate and engage individuals on the need to get involved and promote childhood literacy to help ensure that that all children are on a path to be successful readers by third grade.

Christine Benero is the CEO and President of Mile High United Way.

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