United Way of Central Florida

Let's Grow Presented Community Innovation Award

Black_Logotext.jpg Let's Grow presented 2011 Community Innovation Award
Monday April 25, 2011

Let's Grow, an early literacy initiative by the United Way of Central Florida (UWCF), won the state of Florida's 2011 Children's Week Community Innovation Award presented by Whole Child Florida and the Pearson Foundation.

Editor's Note: See the program video at Facebook.com

The award recognizes efforts that bring business, non-profit, faith-based and government entities together to provide cost-effective services that benefit children and their families.

"Let's Grow is a unique collaboration of community partners that have joined together to declare in one voice that all children deserve a chance for success in school and life," said Cindy Ek, Corporate Marketing/Advertising Manager with Publix Super Markets, Inc.

Publix Super Markets is one of 13 members in the Let's Grow collaboration. The others are Mosaic, State Farm Insurance, University of South Florida Polytechnic, Polk State College, Polk County Public Schools, Lake Wales Charter Schools, Central Florida Speech &Hearing Center, Early Learning Coalition of Polk, HELP of Fort Meade, Lake Wales Literacy Academy, and Learning Resource Center.

The collaboration was facilitated by UWCF's Success By 6 program.

Let's Grow was one of only four statewide winners of this year's award, which is given annually during the legislative session.

Created in 2008, Let's Grow addresses a serious problem in Polk County: 40 percent of the children who enter kindergarten do so without the skills they need to succeed in school.

Children with low language skills struggle to learn to read ... to learn anything. That good start is crucial. Children with age-appropriate language skills:

* Are more likely to pass standardized tests over their lifetime

* Feel less frustrated in school, and

* Are more likely to graduate from high school.

The school-readiness issue is particularly severe among the Polk County's poorest families. Where 80% of middle-to-high income children pass kindergarten language screenings, 80 percent of low income children fail them.

Let's Grow provides hope for these children. Among the steps it's taken so far:

* Summer literacy camps led by experienced early childhood educators improved language skills by as much as nine months for some at-risk children

* Internships for para-professionals caregivers supervised by "Master Teachers" improved vocabulary skills by an average of 2.6 months for every month of interaction a child had with a newly trained caregiver

*100,000 books were placed in the hands of children including nearly 3,000 children who received new books in the mail each month

All children deserve a chance to succeed. Let's Grow gives it to them. And it now it has won an award for doing it well.

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