Newsletter - January 2020
SPARK is the hub of a valuable wheel. An education initiative of Fox Valley United Way, SPARK (Strong, Prepared and Ready for Kindergarten) connects underserved Aurora, Illinois, families with early education and childcare opportunities that prepare their young children for success in school and life.
Thank you for supporting SPARK and helping us reach our goals!

As we begin 2020, we want to take this opportunity to reflect and give thanks to our funders who have made it possible for SPARK to continue its effort to ensure that all children birth to five years old in our community have the supports they need to have equitable access to early childhood programs and services.

City of Aurora
Dunham Fund
East Aurora School District
Grand Victoria Foundation
Gustafson Family Foundation / DuPage Community Foundation
Indian Prairie School District
Nuestro Futuro
Painters District Council 30 – PATCH
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
West Aurora School District
Through the generous support or our funders, we were able to support greater outcomes for families and their children
Early Math Initiatives

With funding from the Painters District Council 30 – PATCH and the Dunham Fund, SPARK will have an
opportunity to provide early math training to parents and early childhood professionals. Through
these initiatives, we will have an opportunity to work with Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative
and our partner agencies to strengthen our children’s understanding of early math concepts. SPARK is
excited for the opportunity these initiatives will provide to strengthen our collaborative partnerships.

Family Math: Counting on Parents
Painters District Council 30 through their PATCH (Painters and Allied Trades for Children’s Hope) Foundation awarded SPARK $10,000 to launch the Family Math Initiative: Counting on Parents.

SPARK values the important role that parents play in being their child’s first teacher. Counting on Parents will focus on support parents knowledge and confidence in developing early math skills with their young children.

Family math refers to activities that happen outside the classroom and within the
context of family relationships, the community, and everyday life that support young children to be
ready for school.

SPARK will work with our existing partners to establish a Family Math Advisory Committee to assess current family math activities offered by the schools and agencies, identify challenges to attaining early math skill and readiness and develop strategies for a systemic, community-wide initiative that will encompass supporting parents’ in supporting their child in developing and mastering early math concepts.
Early Math Professional Development Initiative
Dunham Fund awards SPARK $200,000 to launch a two-year Early Math Initiative.

In response to the 2018 Illinois Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) Report, SPARK investigated key findings from the report for Kane County schools indicating that, while the schools overall ranked low across all areas, math readiness consistently ranked below Language/Literacy and Social/Emotional Development. Further, the results shown in the KIDS report tend to reveal the kind of systemic racial and economic conditions and disparities that affect children from low-income, racially
diverse communities. In response to the KIDS report and research-based findings indicating that the key to improving children’s own engagement in math concepts is to first address early childhood professionals’ own abilities and education in teaching math, SPARK Early Childhood Collaboration will be launching the Early Math Professional Development Initiative in the spring of 2020. This two-year, comprehensive approach, led by trainers from the Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative, will present opportunities for early childhood professionals to develop awareness of and skills in teaching early math concepts to young children in Kane County. This approach will reach teachers and caregivers in classrooms, childcare centers, or family care settings and engage cohorts of leaders within these professions to build sustainable practices and learning opportunities in the future.

Teachers and caregivers who participate in the Early Math Professional Development Initiative will transform and align their teaching to meet the criteria identified in the KIDS report and Illinois Early Learning Standards. Further, the Early Math Professional Development Initiative offers a comprehensive approach for early childhood professionals from a variety of environments and helps break down the institutional divide between teachers in childcare, Head Start, or preschool programs, and those in public Kindergarten.
Welcome SPARK's new executive committee members!

Joe Jackson, Hesed House

Sara Gray, Aurora Early Learning Center - One Hope United

Dr. Janette Funaro, Waubonsee Community College
SPARK Calendar
Our SPARK monthly calendar will introduce a monthly book from the Mind in the Making book collection. Each book will be accompanied with an activity that fosters the Seven Essentials Life Skills.

About Mind in the Making

Mind in the Making,  a program of the Bezos Family Foundation, is an unprecedented effort to share the science of children’s learning with the general public, families and professionals who work with children and families.
Mind in the Making has partnered with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books and educational materials for educators serving children in need, to curate a groundbreaking Mind in the Making Book Collection that combines children's books with tips for building The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (HarperCollins, 2010) by Ellen Galinsky

To learn more about the Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs visit
To learn more about the Mind in the Making Book Collection by visiting
Upcoming Event
Family Activities
Did you know Fox Valley United Way is now part of the Talking is Teaching community? We have partnered with Talking is Teaching to help spread the message that talking to your children is teaching them! We will share a new prompt every month in our newsletter to promote conversation around different topics
Did you know? You can teach your little one early math concepts by talking about clothes! Count the socks in the laundry basket, then find the matching pairs! For more early math tips, visit Too Small to Fail’s Highlights guide: 
In order to celebrate the New York Public Library's 125th anniversary, the library announced a list of the top 10 most checked out books in the library's history. The list, which took six months to compile, was determined by a team of experts who looked at the "historic checkout and circulation data" for all formats of the book. Ezra Jack Keats's "The Snow Day" tops the list, having been checked out 485,583 times through June 2019. While many children's books topped the top 10 list, the number one choice is significant because the main character of the story is black. "It's even more amazing that the top-ranked book is a book that has that element of diversity," New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said.
Census 2020 Count All Kids
Nearly 10% of children Birth-5 years old were missed in the 2010 US Census, causing overcrowded classrooms and underfunded programs. We are working to ensure we count all kids to that every child has the resources they need to be strong, prepared, and ready for kindergarten.

Watch this video to learn more about how important an accurate Census is for children.
Schedule a FREE Developmental Screening Today
Contact us at (630)896-4636 to schedule your FREE developmental screening today! A screening is quick and fun for your child. It will take approximately 20 minutes and we will ask you questions about what your child can do! Every child will receive a free backpack with activities to help prepare them for preschool!

What is a Developmental Screening?

Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. The tools used for developmental and behavioral screening are formal questionnaires or checklists based on research that ask questions about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions. Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, community, or school settings.

At what ages should you have your child screened?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at these ages:
  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 24 or 30 months
SPARK Community Meeting

When: Wednesday, January 22nd
9:30am. - 11:30am.
Where: Santori Library
101 S. River St. Aurora
Playful Learning Aurora
Check out our new website detailing the Playful Learning Initiative here in Aurora! Playful Learning is a collaborative project that transforms everyday public spaces where families work, play, and live into opportunities for learning. Playful learning takes moments such as waiting for the bus, passing time at the laundromat, or waiting at the doctor’s office and turns them into fun learning experiences for both children and their families. This project brings together the science of learning and urban design to infuse cities with playful learning opportunities. Stay tuned for an update about the new Playful Learning installation coming to Hesed House!
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten
Join the Aurora Public Library in there 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge! Stop by the Children's Library and pick up your first tracking sheet. Once you fill it out (200 books) you can get a fun prize and pick up your next tracking sheet! If you read one book a night for 3 years you will reach 1,000 books it is an simple as that! Stop by or call the Aurora Public Library for more information!

Don't live in Aurora that's okay most public library's participate in this program so give your local library a call for more information!