Promoting Early Literacy

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | Author: Eric

Over the past three years, Smart Start has significantly expanded early literacy programs. Literacy affects our state’s ability to create a workforce needed to compete in the global market and ensure our future prosperity. Recognizing that over 90% of language development occurs in the first few years of life, Smart Start provides programs that develop early literacy skills needed for success in school, work and life. Smart Start brings proven, national programs to the children and families of North Carolina. These programs assist parents in developing habits of daily reading with their children, and assist children in discovering an early love of reading.

  • Reach Out and Read supports doctors in their efforts to “prescribe” reading to young children and families during well-child visits through early literacy guidance.
  • Raising a Reader rotates bright red bags filled with award-winning books in children’s homes on a weekly basis, exposing children to over 100 books per cycle.
  • Motheread/Fatheread combines the teaching of parent literacy skills with child development and family support.
  • Dolly Parton Imagination Library provides a free, age appropriate book each month to children age birth to 5.

In fiscal year 2013, the following significant accomplishments were a result of Smart Start early literacy efforts:

  • Smart Start served over 20,000 children through Reach Out and Read (ROR).
    • Families returning to the doctor were 57% more likely to be reading to their child every day than parents new to the program.
    • Among parents of younger children (aged 6 months to two years), those who had been involved in ROR longer were 69% more likely than new participants to read to their children every day.
  • Over 8,300 children participated in Raising a Reader.
    • 71% of participating families reported reading together more than three times a week.
    • Parents reported a better understanding of how to make reading time more effective by reading the book’s title to the child, sitting close, praising the child, and asking the child questions.
  • 708 families participated in Motheread/Fatheread
  • 7,062 families participated in Dolly Parton Imagination Library programs that were funded by Smart Start.


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Rally4Babies is only one week away!

Monday, July 01st, 2013 | Author: Tracy

The Rally4Babies is only one week away! On Monday, July 8 at 2 PM Eastern Time, connect live with event speakers, presenters, and thousands of early childhood advocates in support of early learning policies that benefit babies and toddlers. The virtual rally will take place online through Google+ Hangout at and will be streamed live on YouTube.

Award winning journalist and CEO of Starfish Media Group Soledad O’Brien will serve as the event host. Presenters will include actor and Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance Alma Powell, and award winning children’s musician Laurie Berkner.

To learn more about participating in the rally, visit

Help spread the word about this event to your social media networks using the hashtag #Rally4Babies.

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Early Experiences Shape Brain Architecture and the Skills We Need to Thrive

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 | Author: Tracy

“The quality of the interactions and experiences that our communities provide for children either strengthens or undermines children’s development,” said Al Race, Deputy Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, at the Smart Start Leadership Symposium.

Race’s presentation was titled Building a Foundation for Achievement: How Early Experiences Shape Brain Architecture and the Skills We Need to Thrive.

He discussed how research on the developing brain has identified a set of skills that are essential for school achievement, workforce productivity and health. Scientists refer to these capacities as executive function and self-regulation — a set of skills that enable us to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions, plan ahead and adjust to changing circumstances. Children aren’t born with these skills — they are born with the potential to develop them.

Download the PowerPoint Building a Foundation for Achievement.

Business Leaders Say Early Childhood Investments Needed to Overcome Skills Gap

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 | Author: Tracy

CHARLOTTE, NC – If current education and labor market trends continue, North Carolina could face a shortage of 46,000 workers in the coming years, due largely to the gap between the jobs that require certain skills and/or post-secondary education, and the number of residents who will be prepared to fill them.

That’s a key message from Charlotte business leaders, who today released a report from America’s Edge that reveals the financial costs of the state’s “skills gap,” and highlights the abilities that employers say they need in current and future workers. To address the crisis, the business leaders are urging Governor McCrory and the North Carolina legislature to focus on three key solutions:

  • Continued investments in high quality early education. The business leaders cited research on the impact of quality early education in student’s long-term academic success, and lauded Governor McCrory’s investments in high-quality early education for four-year olds by creating an additional 5,000 slots in North Carolina’s nationally recognized Pre-K program. They also urged further investments in early learning programs that serve children from birth to age three.
  • Incentives for businesses to provide workplace learning opportunities so more students have opportunities to find real-world relevance for what they’re learning in class.
  • Better accountability systems to ensure schools are fostering the skills that today’s businesses need in current and future workers.

Business leaders participating in the release of the America’s Edge report included Bob Morgan, President, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce; Mike Waite, Executive Director, National Association of the Remodeling Industry; Weston Andress, Regional President Western Carolina, PNC Bank; Clifton Vann, President, Livingston & Haven; and Tom Haffner, President, P.T. International Corporation.

The America’s Edge report details the proven impact of innovative high school education models in preparing students for current and future jobs, and high-quality early learning programs to give children a foundation for long-term academic achievement. The business leaders also noted that the state will not need to wait 20 years for the benefits from early learning, citing surprising new research showing that investments in quality early learning will yield an immediate economic benefit for North Carolina businesses.

“The skills gap is a glaring problem for many of our members who want to grow their businesses,” said Morgan. “The good news is that we know that investments in quality early learning and innovative high schools will narrow that gap and keep North Carolina’s economic recovery on track.”

The report details a variety of challenges to strengthening the pipeline of future workers, and highlights research on the proven impact of quality early learning and high schools that prepare students for the workforce.

Challenges for North Carolina businesses and the state:

  • North Carolina has fallen to 31st in the nation in terms of per capita degrees granted in science and engineering. In 2001 the state ranked 4th in the nation.
  • Only 38 percent of North Carolina workers ages 25 to 64 have at least an associate’s degree.
  • 63 percent of eighth graders are below grade level in math and 74 percent are not proficient in science.
  • 22 percent of high school students do not graduate on time.

Challenges to filling the jobs of today and tomorrow:

  • North Carolina jobs requiring post-secondary education are expected to grow 65 percent faster than jobs for high school dropouts.
  • There will be twice as many North Carolina jobs requiring post-secondary education as there are for those for workers with a high school education or less.
  • 91 percent of the jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) will require post-secondary education by 2018.
  • Six out of 10 North Carolina employers report gaps in communications skills among job applicants, and close to half surveyed reported deficiencies in critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

“You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to succeed in science or engineering, but you do need to think analytically and critically to do well in the jobs that are coming down the pike,” said Vann, of Livingston & Haven, which makes a wide variety of products for manufacturing facilities. “We have to find better ways to inspire and equip our kids for these opportunities for the sake of our own business and for the Charlotte economy as a whole.

Solution One: High Quality Early Learning:

  • Research shows that children who participate in high quality early learning programs are better prepared to succeed in elementary school, less likely to need special education, less likely to be held back in school, and more apt to graduate from high school. (Based on long-term studies following children who participated in such programs in Michigan and Illinois, and on those who participated in the Abecedarian program in North Carolina.
  • Research also shows that every $1 invested in North Carolina’s early care and education would generate $1.91 in total spending within the state, based on retail, transportation, construction and manufacturing.

“The idea that anyone can just show up at a construction site and learn on the job is a myth,” said Waite, who heads the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “We need workers who can apply mathematic principles and finely honed skills to our projects and that doesn’t happen overnight. High quality early learning gives kids a foundation for long-term academic success.”

“This report’s findings are bad news for anyone who wants to see a strong banking sector in Charlotte,” said Andress, of PNC Bank. “We need people who can crunch the numbers and people who can communicate the value of all of our financial services to people from all walks of life. In short – people who can think critically and solve problems.”

Solution Two: Innovative High School Models

  • New high school models that integrate rigorous academics and career-relevant instruction are having a proven impact on student achievement and workforce development. These include Career Academies that feature job shadowing, project-based learning, school-based enterprises like student-led businesses, and support services that keep kids on track for graduation.
  • A Career Academies study showed students were twice as likely as non participants to be working in the computer, engineering or media technology sector eight years after graduation, and earned more and were more productive than those not in the program.

“Policy-makers need to pay close attention to the research on high-quality early learning and support innovative high school models like Career Academies,” said Haffner of P.T. International, a maker of metric and power transmission products. “It’s all about establishing a continuum that enables kids to hit the ground running and build the knowledge and experience that keeps them on track for the opportunities of today’s high-skills workplace.”

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Heckman Equation Launching Blog

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 | Author: Tracy

It has been a great month for early childhood development. Following the President’s State of the Union address last month, it seems you can’t turn on the radio or open a newspaper without hearing about “birth-to-five,” “high-quality early childhood development” or “return on investment.”

To keep the dialogue going, The Heckman Equation is launching a blog where Professor Heckman and guests can comment on the national initiative to implement comprehensive early childhood development programs.

This Wednesday, March 20, go to, read the inaugural post and tell your colleagues to do the same.

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NC children continue to suffer from the recession

Thursday, December 13th, 2012 | Author: Tracy

(Action for Children)–The recession continues to take a heavy toll on children and families in North Carolina as current economic conditions are expected to remain similar to those of a year ago–and much worse than they were in 2007, according to a new national report.

The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on Children, 2012: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being, commissioned by the bipartisan national child advocacy group First Focus, uses unemployment, nutrition assistance, and lagged poverty data to forecast child poverty rates in 2012. The report predicts the national child poverty rate will likely remain high at 22.5 percent, more than one in every five children in the country. In North Carolina, the child poverty rate is expected to remain among the highest in the country at 26 percent.

“This report shows that North Carolina’s children continue to suffer from the recession, and sustained investments are needed to help reduce the negative impacts of a challenging economy on our children and families,” said Deborah Bryan, president and CEO of Action for Children North Carolina, a leading statewide child advocacy group. “Investments like tax credits for working families, Medicaid and other public health insurance programs for children are essential to help protect the well-being of our children and youth in times of need.”

The report also examines the number of food aid recipients and parental employment. In North Carolina:

  • An estimated 1 in 10 children lived with an unemployed parent in 2012, more than twice the rate at the start of the recession (four percent in 2007).
  • An estimated 118,000 children lived with parents who were unemployed for six months or more in 2012, up from 23,000 in 2007.
  • The number of SNAP recipients nearly doubled in 2012 (1,157–a 90 percent increase since 2007).

A child’s current and future health and well-being is shaped by his or her economic security early in life. Bouts of parental unemployment and poverty can create both immediate and long-lasting damages that can harm a child’s growth and development. Near-term effects include psychological stress and poorer academic performance, and even increased incidences of abuse and neglect. Lasting consequences include diminished career aspirations and earnings as an adult.

To read The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on Children, 2012: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being, visit:

First Focus has developed and commissioned a series of reports, policy analyses, and other materials examining the recession’s consequences for America’s children. Those resources are available at

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Invest in early childhood development: Reduce deficits, strengthen North Carolina’s economy.

Monday, December 10th, 2012 | Author: Tracy

Those seeking to reduce deficits and strengthen North Carolina’s economy should make significant investments in early childhood education, according to a new publication by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman.

The Fact Sheet – Invest in early childhood development: Reduce deficits, strengthen North Carolina’s economy — outlines the findings of Professor Heckman’s research and includes data specifically for North Carolina. For example:

Investing in early childhood education to increase high school graduation rates would boost North Carolina’s economy. A 5% increase in male high school graduation rates is estimated to save North Carolina $152 million in annual incarceration costs and crime-related expenditures. If that same 5% not only graduated but went on to college at the same rate as typical male high school graduates, their average earnings would accrue an additional $81 million annually. If just one year’s high school dropouts could be converted to high school graduates, North Carolina would accrue an additional $10.8 billion over the lifetime of the students from the graduating class.

Download the Heckman NC Fact Sheet

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New Report Shows Smart Start Improves Outcomes for Children, but Significantly Fewer Children and Families Benefitting

Friday, December 07th, 2012 | Author: Tracy

Fewer children and families are benefitting from programs that increase the learning and healthy development of children birth to five. While Smart Start continues to increase the quality of its program outcomes, the quantity of services and number of children and families served has decreased significantly. The decrease coincides with several years of funding cuts with the most significant reduction occurring in Fiscal Year 2011-2012. It was the lowest level of funding since 1998. The findings are shared in Smart Start’s Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Report to the General Assembly.

Findings of the report include:

  • 19% fewer low-income, working families than in the previous year benefited from child care subsidy that allowed parents to work and children to attend child care or other early education programs.
  • 20% fewer children than in the previous year benefited from teachers attending college-level early childhood courses.
  • 8% fewer children with special needs or at risk for developmental delay received health-related services than in the previous year.
  • 11 % fewer children than in the previous year attended child care programs that were served by Child Care Health Consultants who helped establish or improve health policies and procedures that prevent injuries and protect children from infectious diseases.
  • 34% fewer parents than in the previous year benefited from family-focused programs that provide tools that improve parenting, promote parent involvement and show parents how to create a home environment that helps to promote their child’s development.

There were, however, several bright spots. Smart Start has shown continued success with increasing the quality of its program outcomes.

  • 70% of all children in early care and education attended 4- and 5-star programs as compared to 33% in 2001.
  • 81% of children whose families received help paying for early childhood care and education attended 4- and 5-star centers (compared to 30% in 2001).
  • Only 6% of all children in early child care and education still attended 1- and 2-star centers (compared to 46% in 2001).
  • Parents that participated in evidence-based family programs like the Incredible Years and Parents as Teachers engage in positive parenting practices.
  • Children attending child care programs that participated in Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) engaged in more physical activity.

In addition, there was a significant increase (45%) in participation in early literacy programs. In 2011, the General Assembly included a Special Provision directing NCPC to implement an evidence-based pilot literacy program.

The report also highlights Smart Start’s role in NC PreK.  In FY 2011-12, Smart Start local partnerships administered NC PreK in 54 counties and for 64% of children participating in the program. In addition, Smart Start local partnerships helped private child care programs improve the quality of their classrooms so they may participate in NC PreK and partnered with NC PreK providers to help eligible four-year-olds access the program.

For the first time, Smart Start has data disaggregated by age. This new information shows that increased and focused funding has produced significant results for four-year-olds. Unfortunately, with fewer resources devoted to them, children ages birth to three that attend child care programs are not faring nearly as well. Only 57% of infants enrolled in child care attend 4- and 5-star programs.

And finally, the report notes that the share of the budget dedicated to early childhood has decreased significantly, shrinking from 2.1% of the total State General Fund Budget in FY 2000-2001 to 1.3% in FY 2012-2013. These cuts have coincided with a substantial increase in the number of children birth to five in our state: 101,474 more in 2012 than in 2000.

Download the press release.

Download the Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Report to the General Assembly.


Business Leaders Tout Value of Early Education Funding

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 | Author: Eric

On November 13, 2012, six North Carolina business people released a new report at a press conference in Raleigh, which highlighted the short- and long-term economic benefits of investments in early care and education. View the full story published by WRAL on their website.

Below is full coverage of the press conference:

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Investments in Quality Early Learning Provide Big Boost to Raleigh Economy, New Report Shows

Monday, November 12th, 2012 | Author: Tracy

Business Leaders’ Press Conference at Raleigh Pre-school on Tuesday November 13 at 10 a.m.

Early care and education investments generate millions in economic activity

for North Carolina businesses and improve future workforce


RALEIGH, NC – Six prominent North Carolina business leaders will release a report on Tuesday November 13 showing that investments in high-quality early care and education provide a surprisingly big boost to local businesses in North Carolina and play an important role in helping the state recover from the economic recession.

During a news conference at the Happy Face Preschool in Raleigh, the group will cite a new America’s Edge report that shows investments in quality early learning are generating immediate sales of local goods and services and contributing to long-term economic growth in North Carolina. The business leaders will urge state and federal policy-makers to prioritize funding for these programs and work to improve their quality. Following the news conference, the business leaders will read books with the school’s students.


WHAT: Press conference focusing on early learning’s positive and immediate impact on North Carolina economy.

WHEN: 10 a.m. November 13, 2012

WHERE: Happy Face Preschool
5010 Fort Sumter Road
Raleigh, NC 27606


WHO: Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce

Rick McNeel; President and CEO, LORD Corp.

Machelle Sanders; Vice President of Manufacturing and General Manager, Biogen Inc.

Tony Marshall; President and CEO, Innovative Systems Group, Inc.

Brenda Berg; Founder/Owner, Scandinavian Child, LLC

John Metcalf; President, Workforce Systems Associates

Susan Gates; National Director, America’s Edge

LOGISTICS: Media availability will follow the organized presentation, including photo opportunities with the children and business leaders.  Research reports and DVDs with B-roll footage will be available.



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