Community Connection E-News
June 2017
In Our Communities

Franklin: The inaugural Early Childhood Expo on April 22 provided information, resources and fun to families in the community. Despite the rainy day, many families came out to get information from over 30 vendors about early childhood development opportunities in the area. Topics ranged from local child care centers and education to health care and safety. For more info, contact Amy Hicks at

Indiana:  Save the date for Indiana County's 15th Annual Family Fun Fest. The theme for next year's March 3, 2018 event will be  Fur, Feathers and Fins . This event typically draws families from around Indiana County. For more info, contact Kathy Abbey-Baker at .

When PA State Representative Mike Schlossberg visited the teen parent program at William Allen High School (LVCC at Allen) in Allentown, PA during April's Week of the Young Child, he brought along a camera crew to make a public policy video supporting the investment in early childhood education. The video was shared on Rep. Schlossberg's social media sites, as well as with the PA House of Representatives. The video includes an interview with LVCC's Center Director Maisha Utterbach and shows children and parents from that center. For more info, contact Shawn Deiter at

Montgomery: Over 1,000 people attended the Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten (PEAK) Readiness annual event for the Month of the Young Child.  More than 70 community organizations participated and distributed information to families along with parent and child activities. For more info, contact Mary Rieck at .

Montour:  This year's Week of the Young Child was celebrated by Danville Child Development Center and community partners with a week full of events that included Musical Monday to Family Friday, and a Proclamation & story by the Danville Mayor and the County Commissioners. For more info, contact Diana Dixon at

Share your outreach on PA's Promise for Children website! 
Submit online  or send to Mary at

Keeping Kids Learning Throughout the Summer

As the temperatures grow warmer and schedules change to accommodate vacations and out of school time, there are still many opportunities for community partners to connect with families and children.

PA's Promise for Children offers resources and enewsletters to share with families. These resources contain every day learning opportunities families can use to help their children towards school success.  All activities align with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards. 

Print the materials from the PA's Promise for Children website, or order copies to distribute. (Although there is no cost for the materials, there may be a shipping fee.)

Check out the resources and share with your families!
  • Learning is Everywhere. Calendar and monthly e-newsletter with resources, activities & book recommendations for children from birth to age five.
  • Kindergarten Here I Come. Activity guide and monthly e-newsletter with resources, activities & book recommendations for preschool-aged children.
  • Kindergarten Here I Am. Activity guide and monthly e-newsletter with resources, activities & book recommendations for kindergartners.
  • Early Learning GPS. Families get info about their child's development, as well as resources, tips and tools.
  • Be Your Child's Champion. Helps families through the four parts of communicating on behalf of their child.
  • When I Play, I Learn. Activities using every day items to make the connection between playing and learning. 
  • Recipes for Readiness. Provides various family-friendly activities that will assist in promoting the skills that Kindergarten teachers are looking for as children enter their classrooms.

Library Summer Reading Programs: Build a Better World

Spread the word! Registration for the 2017 Summer Reading Program at local libraries begins in June!  Build a Better World is the state-wide theme. 

Educational studies have shown that the summer reading program has positive effects on students in that voluntary reading correlates with high levels of reading achievement, increased comprehension, and prevents a student's academic 'summer slide'. 

Story times and activities happening throughout the summer for children birth through teens will reflect this theme and encourage children to keep reading over the summer months. 

Going on vacation? No worries--participants can join at any time. 

Partnership provides early learning resources for supporting Dual Language Learners

With more than 47,000 Dual Language Learners (DLLs) speaking 229 different language in Pennsylvania, OCDEL has seen a large number of children entering early childhood programs who are limited in English proficiency. 

To provide supports to classroom staff through training and the use of Early English Language Development standards that directly align to all PA Learning Standards for Early Childhood, OCDEL has expanded their K-12 partnership with WIDA Early Years to include supports around early learning DLL. 

OCDEL and WIDA are offering no-cost resources to support practitioners working directly with children who are DLL. While there are no requirement to use the resources, they are another tool to help support DLL within the classroom.

Check out the following resources:
Contact Barry Wiestling at with questions or for more information.

This initiative is in part by Pennsylvania's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant. For more information on other initiatives funded by this grant, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.

Our Reflections: CIZ Specialists 

Families, schools, early learning providers and community partners have benefited through Pennsylvania's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant's Community Innovation Zone grant, but they aren't the only ones! Throughout the grant term, the Community Innovation Zone (CIZ) Specialists have provided support, guidance, and encouragement to grantees as the goals of the grant were implemented. They've answered and asked numerous questions, provided recommendations, and have been there for and with the grantees from the beginning to the final moments of their accomplishments. 

Along the way, the CIZ Specialists have gathered their own experiences to share.

Lisa Unrath works with CIZ grantees in the Southeast and South Central regions of Pennsylvania.

During the last year and a half, I have learned much, grown, and had several wonderful moments working with my Southeast/South Central Grantees.  It has been proven many times over that we have much more in common than we may initially think. Several of my grantees are using Parent Cafes; a strategy that allows families to sit around a table and talk about their experiences.  Not only does it give the families a voice, but it highlights the values, hopes and dreams that families share.

Trauma Informed education for the whole community has had the largest impact on me personally and professionally. Prior to this exposure, my belief was that it was a school based issue. Through my work, I have learned we need to bring the whole community together: police, fire, hospitals, businesses, libraries, families, and the schools. Through educating the community in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) we will not just impact the educational setting, but the whole community. 

Impactful interactions have happened in all the work of my grantees. I have grown personally and professionally be experiencing the many transition activities hosted by my grantees.  I have seen what happens when the focus is on more than just the children. Supporting families to be confident in their role as their child's first teacher and best advocate while helping schools be ready to support all children has impacted many communities. 

Through my work with the CIZ grantees, I have seen how embracing a prenatal through grade three (P-3) approach directly effects the educational process through the high school and college. Teaching children the value of play, social skills, healthy choices, and the importance of reading, math, and science to their individual success is essential.  We, as a society need to build, show, and share the P-3 work with business, high schools, and post-secondary institutions, this will allow for a larger and stronger investment into our most precious resource:  CHILDREN.   

John Pozza works with CIZ grantees in the Northwest and Central regions of Pennsylvania.

I have learned the value of leadership.  A strong leader who focuses on collaborating and bringing people together to share in the project's mission can have a huge impact on the work. Additionally, it is important to have a succession plan or backup person to take over the role of project coordinator if the original person should leave to be sure the work continues without losing momentum.

One of the more interesting moments for me was when a grantee really understood and focused on data to make changes in their community. The team combined all of their assessment data with the Kindergarten Entry Inventory and discovered some trends, one of which was lower than expected social-emotional skills. Through a partnership between a local preschool and pre-service teachers at the local university, the school district was able to incorporate more play based activities into the kindergarten curriculum to teach skills like teamwork, sharing, and problem solving. 

The other successes I have seen have been related to family engagement. One grantee partnered with a local minor league baseball team to create a space where children can play and representatives from community based resources can be present to talk with families. They took the resources to the families instead of expecting families to come to them.  Another grantee focused on the needs of the refugee families from Syria, Somalia, and Egypt who are in their community. Through supported play groups and in partnership with interpreters families are connected with each other, learn English and get connected to resources.

The experience that always has the biggest impact on me, personally, is the bond I can make with preschool and kindergarten children at any of my school visits. I read to these children and do an activity surrounding the current PA One Book, Every Young Child. I've noticed a particularly strong bond with the children, who often want me to stay longer, read another story or make me promise to come back. 

Karen Spharr works with the CIZ grantees in the Southwest regions of Pennsylvania.

I cannot say enough about my experience this past year and a half about how much I have enjoyed my role in the P-3 initiatives and Race to the Top Grant. I have learned that my passion for the educational well-being of children starting at birth is shared by many throughout Pennsylvania. I have learned that having sound leadership can create an unstoppable team, enrich programming, and instill change with seamless efforts. 

The importance of building relationships with teams has complimented our work together, as well as strengthened our connections. Meeting people where they are is a key element in understanding the dynamics of a group and aids in setting reasonable support goals.

Through a coaching training this past fall, we learned to be a listener in the present has turned out to be the best support system for my grantees. Teams have so many good ideas and sometimes can talk through any obstacles just by sharing with an attentive listener. We can all be listeners, but to be a listener in the present has changed my approach in my work.

This initiative is in part by Pennsylvania's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant. For more information on this and other initiatives funded by this grant, visit the  Pennsylvania Department of Education website .

Why am I getting this email?
OCDEL recognizes that many community based groups across the commonwealth are doing similar work and are comprised of similar team members. This newsletter can be used to help promote collaboration and awareness of others across the commonwealth. The goal is that as groups become aware of each other, events can be coordinated, resources shared and leveraged.  Check your email's in-box for future editions!
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