Now in its third year, Early Learning Initiative (ELI) is making an impact, enabling more children to enter kindergarten prepared to read, and helping them to continue reading and learning on grade level. See the results community investment in literacy has made.


When children are born, they all have the potential to succeed in school and in life. But at some point, their circumstances will affect the opportunities they have and, ultimately, their chances in life. While many children have the support they need to get started on the right foot, prepared for school and ready to succeed, not all children are as fortunate. Too many children live in an environment that isn’t preparing them for a bright future. Brought on by their circumstances, the barriers they face shadow their belief in themselves and what they are capable of.

Most Americans wrongly believe that it is OK for children to enter school without basic literacy skills because they assume they will catch up. The reality is, 88 percent of first graders who are reading below grade level will continue to read below grade level in fourth grade.

Fourth graders who struggle to read are four times more likely to drop out of school as compared to proficient readers.


When students drop out of high school, it’s at great cost to themselves and our community. The student will likely not have the same career opportunities, and research shows that those without a high school diploma will earn 75 percent less than their peer that graduated. The social implications of a student dropping out are far-reaching, beyond any one student or any one family. Communities with higher dropout rates have more crime and poverty and less social and economic stability. The number of high school students who graduate impacts our entire community from our businesses, schools, and local government, to each of us as individuals.


United Way is committed to help change these conditions by leading a comprehensive approach to improving early literacy in our region. United Way has launched the Early Literacy Initiative, bringing together the resources and the expertise necessary for real progress. Through partnerships and collaboration, United Way is uniquely positioned to lead an innovative, comprehensive approach to early literacy and deliver at a regional level. With the objective of sharing and reinforcing proven literacy development techniques, our vision for a successful, regional early literacy initiative requires a multi-prong approach. ELI will make a lasting change because it helps children build the necessary reading skills through parental engagement, volunteer mobilization, caregiver support, teacher training, and community awareness.

For information about partnership, sponsorship or funding opportunities, please contact us at 813-274-0900.