Early education collaboration wins state award

·4 min read

Jul. 21—A local collaboration that brings early learning resources to Glynn County youth recently earned recognition for its outstanding community-based efforts.

The Glynn Early Ed-Child Care Roundtable won the Sandra Dunagan Deal Award for Community Impact in Early Language and Literacy, which spotlights initiatives that make an impact in the development of early language and literacy skills in young children.

The award reflects the legacy of Georgia's former First Lady, Sandra Dungan Deal, a lifelong educator and early education advocate for the state's children and families.

Joint local participation on programs like the Book Buddy Videos initiative, the Basics of Coastal Georgia and Beyond program, Parent University and Kinder Carnival led to a nomination for the award, which was announced at the Deal Center's 2022 Governor Summit on Early Language and Literacy in Milledgeville.

The award includes $1,000 that will go toward the continuation of the Book Buddy Videos program, set to return in December.

"I am so incredibly proud to be part of a community that continues to empower all sectors on the importance of early childhood development," said Geri Mullis, director of Marshes of Glynn Libraries, who was on hand to receive the award. "It is common for people to stay in their silo — but not in Glynn County. This is an award for us all."

The Glynn Early Ed-Child Care Roundtable formed in 2017 and will soon be rebranded as the Early Learning and School Readiness Committee of Family Connection of Glynn.

"We are transitioning to include early elementary," Mullis said. "Before it was birth to pre-K. By expanding we are opening up the reach to help children on a community level be ready to read by third grade."

The group formally came together first through the United Way. Family Connection later took the lead.

Due to the pandemic, they've been meeting electronically since 2020.

Alneata Kemp, executive director of Family Connection of Glynn, also attended the awards ceremony.

"This award really means everything to Family Connection and the work that we do as it pertains to early learning," Kemp said "... It's proven that early learning is essential to a child's education, their learning, their light."

Now is a great time to get involved in the group's ongoing work, Mullis said. Its biggest projects are the Book Buddy Videos, Parent University and Kinder Carnival.

Book Buddy Videos will return for the third consecutive year this December. Through the program, a book is given to every preschool student in Glynn County before the winter holiday break.

Books are distributed through public and private preschool programs and are made available for pick up at the public libraries for children not in a traditional preschool setting.

Each book has a sticker with a QR code that takes the caregiver to a series of videos of "hometown heroes" reading the book.

The website with the video links also contains activities created by local early childhood educators to further engage families on the story.

High school students are also part of the project. Local drama students create, film and edit skits on the books.

The artwork used every year is created by children from the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia.

Parent University and Kinder Carnival have been on hold due to the pandemic, but will be revived soon, Mullis said.

The roundtable group also organizes The Basics of Coastal Georgia and Beyond program, which is funded through a Deal Center grant.

"This is a socio-ecological saturation strategy to raise awareness of early childhood development," Mullis said. "Our project targets childcare centers, public libraries and the health field in parts of Glynn, McIntosh, Camden, Evans, Wayne, Long, Charlton, Brantley, Bryan and Tattnall counties."

The partnerships have expanded even further lately to include the distribution of books and Basics resources with bags of food given out monthly by America's Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia.

"It's almost as if now wherever a family may go they are going to be reached through the Basic learning program in Glynn County," Kemp said.

These programs showcase the investment the whole community is willing to make in the development of its children.

"It is just as important for the entire community to be behind the success of our children as it is for the parent," Mullis said. "Raising readers will improve life for all of us."