U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $108.8 Million in Early Reading First Grants to Help Prepare Young Children to Read

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 22, 2009.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the award of more than $108.8 million in Early Reading First grants to 28 local education agencies and other public or private organizations in 18 states and Washington, D.C., to improve the school readiness of young children, especially those from low-income families. The Department of Education awards Early Reading First grants to school districts and non-profit organizations to improve the instruction and environment provided by preschool programs supported by the Title I program, Head Start, and publicly funded or subsidized child care.

“We know that the years prior to kindergarten are critical in shaping how children learn and succeed in school,” Secretary Duncan said. “Increasing the number of high-quality, early learning opportunities through programs like Early Reading First, especially for low-income families, improves a child’s chance for success in school and in life.”

In March, as President Obama announced his agenda for improving educational outcomes from cradle through career, he challenged states to develop a cutting-edge plan to raise the quality of their early learning programs. Programs like Early Reading First and the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund legislation, a part of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, will help states raise the bar for early learning programs.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget request includes a $50 million increase for Early Reading First and would support up to 52 new projects to help early childhood programs meet the challenges of preparing pre-school children for success in school by providing high-quality, research-based experiences in language and early literacy. Existing programs like Early Reading First and Head Start, along with the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund legislation—a component of the zero-to-five initiative—will be of great importance as the Administration pursues the President’s commitment to expanding support for quality early childhood education.

“Language and literacy development are critical to school success,” says Jacqueline Jones, Ph.D., Secretary Duncan’s senior advisor for early learning. “Providing high-quality learning experiences for at-risk children can ultimately increase graduation rates, set more children on the path to college and careers, and support our nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.”

Early Reading First supports the transformation of existing early learning programs into high-quality centers of educational excellence that ensure low-income children have the early language, cognitive and pre-reading skills that prepare them for continued school success. These programs improve preschool instructional materials, professional development and classroom environments through scientifically proven practices. Early Reading First programs also help young children develop language, phonological awareness, print awareness and knowledge of the alphabet necessary to begin to learn how to read.

For more information about Early Reading First, please visit A complete list of the grantees follows:

Applicant Name Applicant State Federal Funding
Three Year Amount
Fontana Unified School District–Early Education, Instructional Services
Project Name:  Unified School District – Ready to Read
Project Director:  Laurie D. Finucane
CA $2,887,050.00
Long Beach Unified School District
Project Name: Long Beach Unified School District’s SPARK Program – Students in Preschool Acquiring Reading Knowledge
Project Director: Lauren Shaw
CA $3,516,055.00
School District 1, City and County of Denver
Project Name: Lab Enhanced Approach to ReadiNess (LEARN) in Denver Public Schools
Project Director: Jane Walsh
CO $2,926,398.00
Weld County School District 6
Project Name:  Greeley Early Reading First Project:  Early Excellence
Project Director: Nancy Divine
CO $3,282,004.00
Septima Clark Public Charter School
Project Name: Helping Emergent Literacy Progress (HELP)
Project Director: Nancy Mahon
DC $2,651,715.00
University of Delaware–Delaware Center for Teacher Education, Human Services Education and Public Policy
Project Name:  Unlocking Doors to Language and Literacy Project Director: Carol Vukelich
DE $3,674,921.00
United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education
Project Name:  Literacy Enhancement for Early Readers (LEER)
Project Director: Gladys R. Montes
FL $3,570,226.00
Clarke County School District—Office of Early Learning, Instructional Services
Project Name: Ready to Read
Project Director: Jan Stephens
GA $5,823,608.00
United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta
Project Name:  APPLE:  Atlanta Preschools Pursuing Literacy Excellence
Project Director: Sharen Hausmann
GA $4,486,866.00
University of Hawaii–Center on the Family
Project Name:  Hui A’o Mua
Project Director: Barbara DeBaryshe
HI $3,812,216.00
Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois–Center for Literacy
Project Name:  Opening the World of Learning
Project Director: Jeffri Brookfield
IL $4,194,555.00
Chicago Public Schools, District #299—Early Childhood Education
Project Name:  Enhancing Early Reading in Chicago (EERIC)
Project Director: Joan Berger
IL $4,044,066.00
Illinois Action for Children—Early Learning
Project Name:  Illinois Action for Community Early Reading First
Project Director: Diana Brown
IL $2,286,525.11
Little Sprouts, Inc.
Project Name:  EPIC:  Excellence, Passion, Innovation and Courage
Project Director: Meghan McGinley Crowe
MA $4,395,813.00
University of Massachusetts Boston—Institute for Community Inclusion, Early Childhood
Project Name:  Early Literacy Matters
Project Director: Lisa A. Van Thiel
MA $3,763,701.00
Office of Public Instruction, Montana Office of–Education Services, Educational Opportunity and Equity
Project Name:  The Montana Partnership for Early Literacy
Project Director: Deborah K. Hunsaker
MT $6,090,241.00
Columbus County Schools
Project Name:  CORE:  Communities Organizing for Reading Excellence
Project Director: Tammy Jordan
NC $4,319,641.00
Southwest Institute for Families and Children–New Mexico Chapter
Project Name:  Pump Up the Volume in Preschool (PVIP)
Project Director: Karen Burstein
NM $5,628,801.00
Binghamton City School District
Project Name:  Project CLEAR (Creating Learning for Equal Access to Reading)
Project Director: Tonia Thompson
NY $4,317,831.00
Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Education Services—Human Resources Department
Project Name:  Bridges to Literacy (BtL)
Project Director: Roberta Senzer
NY $3,277,488.00
Olean City School District
Project Name:  MADE:  Make A Difference Early
Project Director: Lynn Corder
NY $2,749,102.00
The University of Akron—Curricular and Instructional Studies, College of Education
Project Name:  Teaching Technology Transfer for Language and Literacy Learning in Child Care Centers (TLC3): An Innovative Approach
Project Director: Terry Hallett
OH $3,726,887.00
Connecting for Children and Families, Inc
Project Name:  Phenomenal Readers:  Northern Rhode Island’s Early Reading Project
Project Director: Terese Curtin
RI $3,329,172.00
The Providence Plan
Project Name:  Ready to Learn
Project Director: Leslie Gell
RI $3,930,000.00
Mt. Pleasant Independent School District
Project Name:  Community of Readers (CoRe)
Project Director: Michelle Huffman
TX $3,095,291.00
South San Antonio Independent School District
Project Name:  STARS (Systematic, Targeted, and Appropriate, Reading Strategies)
Project Director: Mourette Hodge
TX $4,500,000.00
Norfolk Public Schools
Project Name:  Project PURPLE (Preschoolers Up on Readiness, Pre-Reading and Literacy Enrichment)
Project Director: Myrna C. Simmons
VA $4,500,000.00
Puget Sound Educational Service District–Learning and Teaching
Project Name: Highline Foundations for Literacy
Project Director: Kay E. Lancaster
WA $4,102,582.00