Kitchener, Ontario June 15, 2011 –Strong Start to reading announced today that it has received a five-year grant of $389,368 from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation to expand its new Get Ready for School program in Waterloo Region’s high-needs neighbourhoods. The program will expand from its current two pilot sites into four sites in 2012 and 15 by 2016.

Get Ready for School is designed to benefit children who have English as a second language or who are disadvantaged for socio-economic reasons. The program’s goal is to help close the literacy disparity gap before children start Junior Kindergarten. The program combines early literacy development with classroom learning behaviour and routines, which are necessary to ensure a positive and confident entry into school. Literacy skills are developed in many ways, including the use of carefully designed activities that encompass phonological awareness (identifying the sounds that letters make), vocabulary development, and sorting and classifying skills.

“There is amazing growth in the children over the course of the Get Ready for School program,” says Machelle Denison, Executive Director of Strong Start. “They develop rich vocabulary and an excitement for learning that gives them an increased confidence at that critical point when they prepare to enter school for the first time. We are very excited to bring this program to the community and are extremely grateful for the generous support of the Hallman Foundation,” she adds.

Get Ready for School is based on the research of Dr. Iuliana Baciu, who recently graduated with a Doctorate in Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University. The program is delivered through community centres and runs for 22 weeks between January and June.

The Lyle S. Hallman Foundation has provided funding for the program’s two-year pilot at Popcorn House in Cambridge while the pilot site of Kingsdale Community Centre has been funded by the United Way of Kitchener Waterloo and Area and The Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation over the same period. This is a fine example of funders working together with a common focus of helping children reach their potential.

The Lyle S. Hallman Foundation is a known champion of early literacy in our community. Lyle Hallman was the co-founder of Strong Start in 2001 and to this day the foundation continues to provide on-going, core funding to Strong Start’s flagship program, Letters Sounds and Words, which is delivered in elementary schools across this region. In their granting philosophy the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation has adopted an intentional, proactive emphasis on prevention. They continue to give priority to initiatives focused on primary prevention-strategies which promote children’s wellness and prevent problems, by providing opportunities for learning and growth.

“I am very proud of the work the foundation has done pro-actively and responsively to support early child literacy in our community,” says Hulene Montgomery, Executive Director of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation. “It has been exciting to watch this program evolve from a PhD research thesis study to the high-impact, high-integrity program it is today”.

Originally published in The Record