Kirkpatrick Foundation

Reading Begins at Home is an exciting new project for Smart Start Oklahoma funded through a generous donation from founding partner, the Kirkpatrick Family Foundation. This unique collaboration between Smart Start Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) home visitation programs, and the Kirkpatrick Family Foundation is the first of its kind to be developed in our state.

In late December 2011, Oklahoma was selected by the ZERO TO THREE organization as one of 7 states (from 25 states that applied) to receive technical assistance to improve connections between early childhood systems and home visiting programs. Early literacy was quickly identified as a common priority for both systems, thus the concept of Reading Begins at Home was born late in 2011.

We know that 83% of low-income 4th graders score at "Below Proficient" levels vs 55% of middle-income student cohorts (Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count 2010). Reading to children is one strategy to increase vocabulary and prepare children for school. However, state agencies cannot use public funding to purchase books to give to children . Through partnership with the Kirkpatrick Family Foundation, the Reading Begins at Home program will purchase developmentally appropriate books and Literacy Practice Guides to be distributed by nurses, social workers, and early childhood professionals during home visits to more than 1,500 children in Oklahoma.

This project is a shining example of what can be accomplished by finding more creative and efficient ways to better serve Oklahoma's young children and their families.

Inasmuch Foundation

From the inception of our organization, the Inasmuch Foundation has been a faithful supporter of numerous projects and initiatives within the Smart Start Oklahoma network. Their influence on the success of new programs and services to support quality early childhood education has been invaluable in changing the paradigm for young children in Oklahoma.

Just one example of initiatives receiving funding through the Inasmuch Foundation are the Innovative Grant Awards. Smart Start communities were asked to submit proposals for an innovative project that met the needs of their community, but lacked funding - almost a "wish list" of ideas to serve local children and families. What followed was a cadre of creative strategies to enhance the well-being of young children and improve the process of delivering services to families and children in their communities.

One example of projects funded through the Innovative Grant Award program is the Intergenerational Classroom in Enid, Oklahoma. In order to address an increasing shortage of public school classroom space and support early childhood collaborations, Smart Start Northwest Oklahoma and Enid Public Schools developed a unique partnership to address the need for additional classroom space while at the same time connecting the generations. Funding from Inasmuch Foundation served as a catalyst to implement a model pre-K classroom in a senior residential living center, equipping the rooms and play ground with developmentally appropriate materials and equipment. This project proves that communities can make a difference in the lives of families when public, private, and business partners combine their time, creativity, and resources to develop a shared vision of our future.

Also funded by the Inasmuch Foundation is the Read Out and Read (ROR) program. Through well-child examinations at local pediatric clinics, children receive new books and parents learn about the importance of reading aloud to their children. Books are supplied to participating physicians who are trained to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud to their child during pediatric checks.

These are just two examples of creative solutions to promote school readiness by subsidizing community-based efforts to increase the number of children who are ready to succeed by the time they enter school. We are so fortunate to have friends like the Inasmuch Foundation who join us in supporting Oklahoma's most precious resource, our children.

Chesapeake Energy

With a generous 5 year donation from Chesapeake Energy Corporation, 3 Smart Start communities (Ada, Enid, and Guthrie)  expanded into neighboring counties, and 2 brand new Smart Start Communities were formed.

Smart Start expanded into Garvin, Kingfisher, Grant, and Woods Counties with Chesapeake funding. With the help of their neighboring Smart Start communities, these counties continue to build and strengthen their coalitions, conduct community assessments, and finalize their strategic plans. These communities identified and informed key leaders in their expansion areas and successfully formed coalitions that address critical issues affecting young children and families.

Canadian County and Kiamichi Country, our newest additions to the Smart Start Network, formed coalitions with key community leaders and organizations focusing on marketing strategies. In addition, both new communities implemented public engagement activities to educate their communities of the importance of the early years.

Chesapeake funds also launched literacy projects, such as Raising A Reader.

Smart Start Oklahoma thanks Chesapeake for their school readiness investment in rural Oklahoma.

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