Year’s accomplishments by Smart Beginnings detailed

Published 9:12 am Friday, June 3, 2011


FRANKLIN—Ellen Couch, executive director of Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater, spoke about the organization’s accomplishments over the past year during a community breakfast at Paul D. Camp Community College on Wednesday.

“It’s amazing the amount of programs that Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater and our partners have in place throughout Western Tidewater,” Couch said. “Our Raising A Reader program is all throughout three of our school divisions and our local libraries as well and a lot of our local preschools.”

Children can take home bags of books.

“They bring those bags of books back, and then they get a new set,” Couch said.

Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater, which prepares youngsters for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, served nearly 210 childcare providers over the past year.

“These are private centers, these are child-care centers throughout our area, school divisions, preschool folks, and these are in-home providers as well,” Couch said.

Smart Beginnings also partnered with The Children’s Center to administer social emotional screenings for 368 children up to age 3.

“We are increasing our PALs scores, which is the kindergarten assessment that is given in all of our school systems’ classes throughout Western Tidewater,” Couch said.

Maria Brown, vice president of programs for Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, emphasized that a child should learn to read proficiently by the end of the third grade, and that the United States is losing more than half of its potential workforce because so many lack a high school diploma.

Sarah Bishop of the United Way of South Hampton Roads noted that 16.5 percent of births in Franklin are to mothers without a high school diploma.

“Southampton County is 17 percent,” Bishop said. “Isle of Wight was 10 percent.”

Bishop also provided figures to illustrate a link between poverty and child development.

“(In) Franklin, 30 percent of your kids are living in poverty,” Bishop said. “Isle of Wight, 15 percent, and Southampton, 20 percent.”

Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater has 36 active collaborators and agencies.

“I can’t tell you what it means to look out and see all of you here today because you are concerned about our young children,” said President Martha Kello. “Businessmen know that that’s going to give them a better workforce for the future.”