Helping to Close the Educational Achievement Gap

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From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life.  Achievement gaps are already significant by age three, and children who are behind when they start kindergarten are more likely to struggle in school, repeat grades, develop behavioral and emotional problems, drop out, and have chemical and mental health problems as adults.

Only 37% of Verde Valley third graders passed the AZMerit reading test in 2017, less than the state average.  To help make improvements in this area, the Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to the Verde Valley Imagination Library, a nonprofit organization focused on early childhood literacy.

The Imagination Library works to ensure that all children ages birth to five living in the Verde Valley have access to high quality books.  Through a partnership with the Verde Valley Medical Center, the Women and Infants Unit gives each newborn a first book, and staff offer to help parents enroll their children in the program.   Once enrolled, children receive a book in the mail each month for five years.

The idea is that by involving parents in a child’s education early on, there will be a positive impact on the child’s ability to learn.  The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Reading regularly with young children strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which in turn builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

According to Jodi Casper, a registered nurse in the Women and Infants Unit, “It’s nice to know that in some way we are making a difference in a child’s future by promoting literacy.”

The Foundation is committed to advancing the health of northern Arizona communities.  Learn more about other nonprofit organizations funded by the Foundation.

* The AZMerit, also known as Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching, is the end-of-the-year annual exam administered to students from 3rd grade through high school.