Early Childhood InitiativeEarly Childhood Initiative

For decades, researchers have documented the importance of the first five years of life in development of intelligence, motivation, and social skills. Current research demonstrates that all early experiences have a far reaching effect on the brain. The totality of a young child’s experience, everything they do and each contact they have in family and community has a great impact. There are enormous long term pay-offs when we dedicate resources to our youngest children.

That is why the Southwest Initiative Foundation is engaged in an initiative to ensure that all of our youngest children thrive, and have a healthy life of learning, achieving and succeeding. The statewide program – the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative – is a network of coalitions focused on quality of care and educational opportunities for children birth to five. Willmar is very fortunate to be one of the 86 coalitions across the state of Minnesota. 

The vision of the Willmar Early Childhood Initiative is:
Committed to increase school readiness and improve literacy skills of children in Willmar through partnerships that encourage a community environment that supports the growth and development of young children.

Willmar ECI Recent Accomplishments/Highlights:

Parent/Child Events

  • Annual Fire Station Read Aloud in which a small group of members have written and published a book for the event and the community titled ‘Firefighters On call for their community.’
  • Books and Baseball a partnership with Willmar Stingers where children and families can attend a Stingers game, receive a free book and have the book read to them by Stingers players.
  • F.R.E.D. (Fathers Reading Every Day) for fathers and children. Great way for dad’s to spend time with children building, creating and reading.
  • Books and Bingo – fun night to play create, learn and take home a book or two.
  • Family Fun Night held the 12th annual event which focused on literacy. This event is put on by Ridgewater College, Help Me Grow, Head Start, ECFP, and the past few years the ECI has been a partner

Community Wide Activities

  • Parent Newsletter
    3 times per year in English and Spanish
  • Read Along
    Partnership with ECI, WRAC 8, ECFP and Capstone Publishing
  • Ben and Bella
    Partnership with WRAC 8, Encyclopedia Britannica, ECI, ECFP, Grow Mobile June of 2010 this show won a Telly Award
  • Learning Zone
    Partnership with WRAC 8, ECI, ECFP, Encyclopedia Britannica
  • 1000 books by kindergarten
    Willmar Public Library, JOTS and ECI sponsored this program that encourages children to read 1000 books before they enter kindergarten
  • Resources
    Willmar ECI along with Help Me Grow purchased several curriculum and parenting resources that are currently housed and available for checkout at the Willmar Public Library
  • Little Red Book Shelf
    Bookshelf that were built by eagle scout that will be located in community businesses and filled with books for children to read and look at while parents are doing business.

Literacy based training for Early Childhood professionals and Family Friend and Neighbor providers

  • Literacy Institute
  • Literacy in Motion
  • SEEDS in Spanish
  • SEEDS in Somali

Please contact us for more information or to be part of our team.
Majority of the accomplishments/Highlights were made possible through an Otto Bremer Foundation grant.


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