State League Early Childhood Initiatives
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM) partnered with the YEF Institute and the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) to help cities and towns in New Jersey develop and implement Mayor's Book Club initiatives. Cities such as Jacksonville, Fla., Charleston, S.C., Lynchburg, Va., and Hampton, Va., have used these initiatives as a strategy to engage parents and other caregivers in promoting early literacy among young children.
Cities implementing a Mayor's Book Club typically partner with libraries, businesses and community groups to provide parents of young children with books and educational supplies, sponsor book drives and literacy events, make games and resources that promote literacy available to parents and caregivers, and raise awareness about the importance of early literacy. In addition, Mayor's Book Clubs often involve the mayor reading a book to a group of young children each month, either at a library or on local television or radio stations. A wide body of research has demonstrated the link between high-quality early education and positive outcomes for children in school and in life.
NJLM recently held a workshop on the topic at their annual conference in November to introduce these initiatives to member cities. The workshop highlighted city-led early literacy efforts and examples of how municipal leaders have used Mayor's Book Clubs to create an environment where reading is encouraged and books are widely available to children. Cities selected to participate in the Mayor's Book Club technical assistance project included Clifton, Hightstown, Hope Township, Jersey City, Mount Arlington, Neptune Township and Trenton. Pleasantville joined the project in January 2010.
In his October 5, 2010, address to the Virginia Municipal League's (VML) annual convention held in Hampton, Va., incoming VML President James P. Councill III, Mayor of Franklin, Va., announced a new partnership among the YEF Institute, VML and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to help municipal leaders in Virginia improve early childhood education.
The initiative will help cities leverage the support of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which provides local governments and key county and regional partners in Virginia with technical assistance and competitive grants of up to $500,000 through its Smart Beginnings program. Smart Beginnings builds the capacity of local and regional coalitions and leadership councils to improve the delivery of early childhood services, support parents of young children, and promote school readiness. Through Smart Beginnings, 30 cities in Virginia have received grants to strengthen home visiting programs, Head Start, child care and other existing early childhood programs, and to build more efficient and coordinated early childhood education systems.
The new partnership between NLC and VML will help cities promote a statewide early childhood agenda, and will build on the YEF Institute's recent work with Richmond, Va., and three other cities to align early care and education programs with public school systems. Prior to this work, VML produced a publication on "Building Stronger Communities through Early Childhood Success."