Early Childhood Initiative
United Way of Kern County understands that the foundation for the ability to read begins at birth or even before. Listening to and interacting with parents/caregivers are the first steps to success. The steps continue through preschool and up to the third grade. This is because it is at this time that children make the important transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Those who are unable to read proficiently by the third or fourth grade are at a much higher risk of failing and ultimately dropping out of school.
In Kern County, just 36 percent third graders score “proficient” or above on state standardized reading tests—about 9 percent less than the state average. Our county’s high school dropout rate is 16 percent. We have learned that to ensure kids are reading proficiently at third grade, they must be on track when they enter kindergarten. For these reasons, United Way of Kern County focuses on initiatives to improve early childhood literacy as a key component in its efforts to improve education through the Born Learning© Initiative and the Raising a Reader Program.