November 11, 2005
The Department of Health & Social Services) and the Department of Education & Early Development will use the funds to carry out recommendations being developed by the task force, which met today at the UAA/APU Consortium Library in Anchorage.
"Our children are born ready to learn; we just need to be there for them at the right time to make sure they have every opportunity to realize their potential," First Lady Nancy Murkowski said. "This task force and funding proposal will be important steps toward creating a comprehensive effort throughout Alaska to support quality early childhood literacy."
The funding request will be included in the budget of the Department of Health & Social Services, which has the primary responsibility for children from birth to age 5 through infant learning programs, child care, and public health.
" Alaska needs a statewide effort to invest in high-quality early childhood literacy for our pre-kindergarten children," DHSS Commissioner Karleen Jackson said. "We need to promote partnerships among state and local education agencies, early childhood educators and community-based programs to expand preschool opportunities for 3- and 4-year-olds. Those are the most critical years in a child's vocabulary development which impacts later success in reading and writing."
" Alaska would gain a tremendous benefit from a broader scope of high-quality preschool opportunities that help students successfully transition to kindergarten," said Education Commissioner Roger Sampson.
The task force, which will meet monthly from January through May 2006, is developing a comprehensive strategy to address improving early childhood learning and literacy in Alaska, as well as raising the public's awareness of the issue.
Funding for the task force comes primarily from the Alaska Humanities Forum, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Rasmuson Foundation, The CIRI Foundation, United Way of Anchorage and Child Care Connection.
In May 2005, Governor Murkowski called for the task force and charged it with identifying ways Alaskans can improve the readiness of preschoolers to read and learn; families can become better at teaching children to listen, speak, read and write; preschools and childcare centers can provide the best possible start for children; the business community can do its part; and state and local governments can support the effort.
Purpose of the Ready to
Read, Ready to Learn Task Force
The Alaska Humanities Forum took the lead in establishing the task force.
How the task force came
The Department of Education & Early Development wants families to have more access to better preschool programs that are aligned with the state's K-12 standards, so students can easily transition into the public schools.
About 50 Alaskans met January 28, 2005, in Anchorage to discuss the issue and hear from Dr. Libby Doggett and Ms. Stephanie Rubin of Pre-K Now, a national nonprofit that advocates for preschool for children age 3 and 4. The Trust for Early Education also presented research on economic returns to be realized from investing in good early education programs.
In the next step, the Pre-K/Early
Childhood Literacy Summit was held May 17-18 at the University
of Alaska Anchorage. Governor Frank H. Murkowski and First Lady
Nancy Murkowski convened the summit with participation by sixteen
agencies and organizations. The summit's purpose was to build
awareness of the issue and start the pre-K plan. About 200 Alaskans
Why improve early childhood literacy?
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