Dawn Gerundo, Director of Education and Children at Valley of the Sun United Way in Arizona, shares how they partner with Scholastic to bridge school and community to drive student success.
Supporting the Journey
Valley of the Sun United Way envisions a community where every child, family and individual is healthy, has a safe place to live, and has every opportunity to succeed in school, life, and work. Supporting a family’s journey to success is crucial. We believe in walking alongside them as they navigate their child’s education and all the pivotal transitions they come across along the way. This ensures they have the necessary tools and resources to reach their goals.
Reaching Educational Milestones
Building a strong learning foundation sets children up for success in school and life. It is a foundation that is quickly formed during the earliest years of their lives. Science tells us that 90% of the brain is developed by age five. That is why it is so important for families to focus on reaching educational milestones and preparing their children to enter school. Failing to reach those goals can break the birth-to-career continuum, which comes at great cost to the entire community.
Covid-19’s Impact on Education
Valley of the Sun United Way, along with Scholastic, has been distributing School Readiness Kits for the past 15 years. These kits came packed with over 80 fun and educational activities for families to do with their children in preparation for school. 89% of families who received a kit reported that they were reading more and doing more learning activities at home. However, during the pandemic we found that families needed more.
Covid-19 had an enormous impact on education across the nation. Children started to learn from home and parents took on an even bigger role in their learning journey. Valley of the Sun United Way reached out to families who received a School Readiness Kit and asked how we could help. Many responded saying they needed resources and guidance for the next step, entering preschool and kindergarten.
Introducing School Success Kits
To address this need, Valley of the Sun United Way teamed up with Scholastic again in the development of the new School Success Kit. The kit was developed to continue down the educational journey with families and to take off where School Readiness Kits stopped. These kits will be distributed in communities where children may not have access to high-quality preschool programs or may have been cared for by family, friends, or neighbors prior to kindergarten. The kits are a way to bridge school and home communities and ensure support for student engagement while cultivating the joy of reading and learning.
What’s Included for Families
The School Success Kit includes a bilingual family guide with milestones and activities to strengthen literacy skills. It also has enhanced activities around parent engagement and social emotional development based on the Yale Child Study and Scholastic Collaborative for Children and Family Resilience work.
It also gives schools the opportunity to increase their family and community engagement efforts. The kit helps educators set up meet and greets, orientations and curriculum nights, as the family guide resource included in the kit becomes the connector. That consistent engagement can be life changing.
The kits also offer guidance for parents on how to communicate with their children’s teachers to form strong partnerships with schools. This will allow them to better support their child’s learning journey, be their advocate and stay engaged.
Valley of the Sun United Way is proud to partner with Scholastic to create lasting change in the lives of children across Maricopa County, AZ and we’re excited to extend our solution to school districts around the nation. Together, we’re confident we’ll close the opportunity gaps to ensure students read at grade level by 3rd grade and that they are given the support they need to succeed in school and life.