Family Engagement: Giving Kids a Great Start in Phoenix

April 03, 2023

Read On Communities

Read On Phoenix held a celebration luncheon on March 10 to thank community partners for the successful one-year pilot expansion of the City of Phoenix’s Great Start Initiative, a program that engages economically-disadvantaged families in supporting their children’s language and literacy development before they start kindergarten.

Great Start provides participants with free admission to several local educational and cultural organizations, including: Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center, Arizona Science Center, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Desert Botanical Gardens, Japanese Friendship Garden, Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix Zoo, and Pueblo Grande Museum.

This year, with funding from the Vanguard Foundation/Campaign For Grade Level Reading, the program was expanded to include a series of workshops that reinforced the integral role parents play in their child’s learning. The workshops were programmed by Make Way For Books and offered at three City of Phoenix family resource centers. Families received books and learned about the benefits of making shared reading and language-rich interactions part of their daily routines starting from birth. The expansion funding also enabled the program to serve more families and provide access to additional museums and cultural institutions for more educational experiences.

Research has shown that meaningful family engagement in children’s early learning supports school readiness and later academic success. These experiences are essential to building of prior knowledge and contextual foundations that are critical to reading comprehension in the early grades.

The celebration luncheon, hosted by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, was attended by over 50 local community members, including parents, community stakeholders, and representatives of many of the cultural organizations that participated in the program, as well as partners in Read On Phoenix. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego provided opening remarks, and parents expressed their appreciation for the meaningful opportunities, experiences, and learning resources that Great Start provided for their children and families.

The luncheon also included a planning session to explore options for funding to sustain the expansion into the future.

The Great Start Program is an example of how Read On Arizona and its affiliates leverage national partnerships to bring additional resources to local Arizona communities in support of our shared priorities.