Ready kids, ready schools, ready communities

By Mary Dodd

Shortly after Superintendent Alex Carter’s June 19 Cortez Journal letter urging families and community members to help prepare kids for kindergarten by talking and reading to them from an early age, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a landmark policy paper with a similar message to parents: Begin reading to your babies shortly after birth, and read to them every day.

Every major media outlet and most social media venues featured the news: reading to babies helps prepare them for K-12 success.

Members of the Montelores Early Childhood Council, representing early childhood, health, mental health, family support, families, and the business community are glad to see so much attention devoted to this message.

We’d like to highlight some of the resources available to help everyone in our community participate fully in preparing our young children for success in school and life.

The Southwest Coordinator for Reach Out and Read and MECC member, Mary Vozar, partners with local health care providers to prescribe books and encourage families to read aloud together every day, promoting early literacy, family interactions, and school readiness.

Cortez Children’s Librarian and MECC member, Laura McHenry, encourages early literacy in a variety of ways, including Library On The Go, the summer reading program, preschool story hours, an exciting children’s area at the library, and more. The Treasure Chest Family Literacy Program, offered through the Pinon Project and coordinated by MECC member Karen Winchester, lends local families a tub full of books and fun activities to increase early literacy and school readiness. These programs are free to families.

Whether you are a parent, professional, friend, neighbor, or concerned citizen, you can learn more about encouraging early literacy and school readiness on our website, Because MECC realizes that school readiness requires a whole child approach, we promote initiatives in the areas of health, mental health, early learning, and family support.

On our Home page you’ll find the latest local, state, and national news about young children (including a recent video highlighting Reach Out and Read); the most recent MECC newsletter with articles, recipes, and activities; photos of recent Family Nights and flyers about upcoming Family Nights; and other news of interest.

Our Parents & Families section has videos and articles to help kids develop in all areas necessary for success in school, from sharing books, to encouraging language skills, promoting math and science concepts, fostering social skills, and keeping kids healthy. Parents can learn about choosing an appropriate early learning setting for their child, and about local community resources that offer parenting classes.

If a child is cared for by a family member, friend, or neighbor, our website has a section of resources for these valuable members of our community (about half of all children under 6 in Montezuma county whose parents work outside the home are cared for in informal, unlicensed settings).

The ever-expanding Educators section has a wealth of resources for early childhood professionals, including local professional development activities to ensure early educators have the knowledge and skills they need to continue providing quality care to our youngest citizens.

In the Employers and Community section, employers, business professionals, and members of the community will find compelling statistics about the critical importance of high-quality early childhood environments to the success of our national, state, and local economies as well as quality of life.

Finally, the About Us section describes all MECC’s initiatives in greater detail. Of particular interest, you’ll find ways you can help improve the lives of children and their families, as well as a compilation of previous Cortez Journal articles written on a variety of topics by MECC members.

If all of us work together, we can achieve “Ready Kids, Ready Schools, Ready Communities.”

Mary Dodd is chief knowledge officer of the Montelores Early Childhood Council.