United Way's Early Education Programs

Year Round Education Tools for Pre-K Children

The first 5 years before Kindergarten are extremely important to a child’s intellectual and social development. Educational experiences such as reading and being read to, pre-school education, and engaging in developmentally appropriate challenges have long-term benefits for children – they are more likely to graduate high school and provide a sustainable income for themselves and their families. Moreover, communities who encourage and support children’s education see a lower rate of crime and benefit from the economic advancement that comes with higher educational attainment. Because of early education’s long-lasting benefits, United Way supports several programs and initiatives aimved to help families with young children. Below are examples of our most recent initiatives:

1. Dolly Parton Imagination Library (Ages 0-5): Year-Round Program
United Way of Santa Barbara County increases access to books through its Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through this program, more than 1,400 families with children up to age five receive a new age-appropriate book in the mail ever month at no charge. We know that reading to a pre-school child is the single most important way to prepare them for school. By placing expert-selected books directly in the home, we are creating opportunities for parents and children to spend time together in an enriching way that will pay big dividends down the road.

2. Kindergarten Success Institues (Ages 4-5): 3-4 week Summer Program
We also offer Kindergarten Success Institute (KSI) classes in Santa Ynez and south Santa Barbara County schools every summer before the start of school in the Fall. Students who have little or no preschool expereince learn behaviors that are essential to their success in the coming kindergarten schoool year and much more. Children who have not attended pre-kindergarten often do not know basic letters, numbers, shapes, and colors, how to spell their names, use scissors, sit in a circle, share, or cope with frustration.  Approximately half of incoming kindergartners are significantly under-prepared for school.  KSI offers them a positive, confidence-boosting beginning to their educational careers.

3. Parent Success Institues: 6-8 week Program
The Parent Success Institute class series is designed to help low-income caregivers of young children better meet their child’s educational and developmental needs. These interactive workshops, taught by bilingual and bicultural instructors, help guide enrolled parents in the parenting process and covers everything from school readiness to patience, good attention, and positive discipline. Many low-income parents/caregivers, who are mostly monolingual and may have limited educational backgrounds, do not know the resources available to their families and may have a hard time influencing their children’s education. This program prevents children from missing early education opportunitites and educates the parents on the resources within the community.