Local organizations awarded $245,000 for early learning initiatives

The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County has been awarded $245,000 to partner with local organizations on early learning initiatives.

The local community foundation is among 86 organizations within the state that are receiving funds from the Early Years Initiative, with Early Learning Indiana announcing $31 million in grants on Wednesday.

“We were encouraged by the range of proposals received from community organizations that care deeply about ensuring infants and toddlers in their communities develop the foundational knowledge and skills that support their future learning and development,” said Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber. “We only have a few short years to set our youngest Hoosiers on a path to thrive in life, and the work of these organizations across the state will enable us to make the most of these years while deepening our understanding about which efforts are most effective.”

According to a Early Learning Indiana, the Heritage Fund will use its grant funds for two projects. One is to work with the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to expand the Family School Partners home visiting program to serve 50 additional children with two new positions, one bilingual and the other focused on outreach to African American families.

Family School Partners describes itself as a program providing educational in-home visitation for children from infancy up to five years old. Through home visits twice a month, parent educators assist other parents in fostering “a stimulating, nurturing home environment through the use of curricular materials appropriate for children’s ages with the goal of the children entering school developmentally prepared for success.”

Additionally, the Heritage Fund will work with the Bartholomew County Public Library and local healthcare providers to expand the Growing Readers program.

According to library officials, the program’s goal is for kids to hear 1,000 books before they start kindergarten.

The initiative was previously awarded grants from the Heritage Fund and the Mildred A. Reeves Early Education Fund to help extend its reach. Organizers said at the time that they would work with local pediatric care providers to increase outreach to families and provide them with quality books, early literacy tips, and support information suited to their child’s age and development.

Through the Early Years Initiative grant, local partners hope to expand the Growing Readers program to serve 2,500 additional children.

The grant initiative was launched by Early Learning Indiana in March of 2023 with support from a $50 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. It is a three-year effort.

The competitive grant program is intended to help strengthen communities’ efforts to support the learning and development of infants and toddlers in Indiana.

The Early Years Initiative has a particular focus on infants and toddlers in low-income families, in families within communities of color and families where very young children are multi-language learners.

All 86 organizations receiving grant funds will serve families in low-income households. An estimated 69% of grantees will serve members of communities of color, and 63% will serve multi-language learners.