Giving children a Smart Start through early literacy

Published 12:09 am Sunday, December 6, 2015

By Phillip Barton and Amy Brown

For the Salisbury Post

A job well done to the Rowan Salisbury School System and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation! The Nov. 19 Literacy Summit and its focus on early literacy efforts in Rowan County was a key step for this community. The main focus of the Literacy Summit was on the First 2,000 Days, which is the number of days between the time a baby is born and when he or she will enter kindergarten. It is during that time that a child’s brain architecture is forming, and that architecture will create the foundation for all future learning. You can learn more about the First 2000 Days at

We must note that when we think of early childhood programming, Smart Start is at the forefront of our minds. Smart Start is a successful public-private partnership, launched in 1993, by the state of North Carolina to ensure high quality, affordable and available child care, health, early literacy, and family support services for families with children ages birth through 5 years of age. It is a nationally recognized early childhood initiative designed to ensure that every child arrives at kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed.

Smart Start Rowan is one of 75 local Smart Start Partnerships that serve all 100 counties across the state of North Carolina. The Smart Start Rowan Board of Directors and working committees are part of a dynamic non-profit organization helping to provide critical services and resources to young children and their families. Smart Start Rowan also represents a 3.5 million dollar investment of primarily state (and some local) resources in Early Childhood initiatives in Rowan County. Working collaboratively with other organizations in the community, we are changing the lives of children in Rowan County. We know that education begins at birth and that if children develop a love of reading during these critical early years, then they are more successful in school and later in life. For more information about Smart Start Rowan, visit

Smart Start Rowan, in a partnership with the Rowan County United Way, currently serves over 8,000 of the almost 10,000 children, ages 0-5 in Rowan County, through the Reach Out & Read early literacy program. Reach Out & Read is a nationally known evidence-based model that provides exceptional early literacy outcomes for children and their families. In local medical practices and the Rowan County Health Department, children are given a developmentally appropriate book and a “prescription to read” by the medical professional during each well child visit. This “prescription to read” integrates children’s books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children. For more information about Reach Out & Read, visit

The recent passing of Dr. Shirley Peeler Ritchie has so eloquently reminded us all of her wonderful efforts to make this community a better place for its young children. Dr. Ritchie was the founder of Smart Start Rowan, formerly known as the Rowan Partnership for Children. She was committed to early childhood education, and she understood that the First 2000 Days are so critically important in the life of a child. She supported Smart Start Rowan’s early literacy efforts, and she was always a champion of kindergarten readiness. She would have been proud of the work that took place during the November 19th Literacy Summit, and she would want us all to continue to work together to improve the lives of all children!

Phillip Barton is the board chair and Amy Brown is executive director of Smart Start Rowan, which is a Rowan County United Way Grantee Agency