Early Learning

Success Story

Brandon is 4 years old and has uncontrollable aggressive behaviors that have gotten him in trouble with his parents as well as with schools he has attended. He has previously been expelled from three preschool classrooms. It was time for a change. He was referred to the Village Family Service Center, where he and his parents met weekly with a therapist to acquire tools that would help him decrease his explosive behavior.

With the help of the therapist, Brandon’s parents reported significant changes in his behavior, received fewer calls from their childcare provider, and he even started developing friendships.

The Goal

Every young child, birth through 3rd grade, reaches their early learning and literacy potential.

The Challenge

  • 90% of brain development occurs before age five.
  • “Studies have shown that children that are read to on a regular basis have a far larger vocabulary and stronger social skills than do children that do not have regular exposure to reading. “Initiative Quarterly 2012 4th quarter article entitled: “Our Diaper Clad Economy” by Sarah Colburn


  • Strategy: Reach 10,000 parents and caregivers with the “Read. Talk. Play.” initiative focused on the very simple things we can do that have a deep impact in their child’s learning.

United Way Initiatives

  • “Read. Talk. Play. Together Everyday.” is the key theme for our initiative focused on parents and care providers of children, birth to age three.
  • United Way is very active in Partner for Student Success and facilitates Cradle to Career Community Priority.
  • Undeliverable Imagination Library books are provided to English learning programs, jail visitation rooms, Head Start classrooms, Promise Neighborhood, and other locations where parents and volunteers are working on reading skills with children.
  • Coordinates and hosts annual Llama Llama Read-A-Rama events focused on free family fun and the value of reading.
  • Promotes and sponsors family focused community events like Saturday Run & Reads, Kinder Olympix, and the Fatherhood Celebration held to help families having fun and learning time together.
  • Establishment 10 Little Free Libraries in the local area in 2014.

Successes with Community Partners

Last year

  • 3,427 young children are active in programs building their pre-literacy and reading skills
  • 760 infants, preschoolers and young children have parents who are gaining parenting skills
  • 869 parents are increasing their knowledge about their child’s development, gaining parenting skills and how to help their child learn
  • 11,041 local children, ages birth to their 5th birthday, received Imagination Library books in the mail every month.

How you can help

Visit United Way Volunteer Connection to find local volunteer opportunities and look for other ways to get involved. Tell others about United Way’s 2-1-1 Community Helpline. Here is a list of other resources that can assist you:

Read Talk Play

United Way and their community partners are committed to ensure every young child reaches their early learning and literacy potential.

Your child is born ready to learn and you are your child’s first teacher.


  • Look at pictures in books. Talk about what you both see.
  • Ask “What might happen next?”
  • Make up stories of your own.
  • Visit your local library – Activities for all ages.


  • Encourage them. Use positive words . . . “You can do it.”
  • Talk about daily activities as you do them.
  • Listen & respond to your child.
  • Sing silly songs. Make up a rhyme.


  • Roll a ball, build with blocks, go for a walk.
  • Use common objects – pots and pans
  • Play simple games like “I Spy” and “Peek-A-Boo”.
  • Make believe. Sit in the sandbox. Create a blanket tent.


Help shape the future of the children in our community. Here is a list of resources that can assist you in this journey:

  • Be the Best Parent You Can Be flyers: listing of local parenting resources
  • Zero to Three: Information, tools and support designed to help parents nurture their young children’s development.
  • Born Learning: Explore ways to turn everyday moments into fun learning opportunities.  Information on children’s nutrition, health care, sleep and education needs at each stage of growth, infancy to five years.
  • Help Me Grow or 1-866-693-4769:  Explore the milestones of development in young children and when to call to if you are concerned about your child’s development, growth or learning.

Learn more at the Great River Regional Library website or call 320-650-2500.