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Governor Granholm launched Project Great Start in the 2003 State of the State Address. The governor described this new initiative as a movement that challenges us all to recognize that learning begins at birth not when a child enters school. Our youngest citizens grow and learn at rates unprecedented in later life, setting the stage for future success in school and life. The intent is that all Michigan citizens will recognize that investment in the earliest years of life leads to productive citizens and dividends throughout life.

The governor’s commitment served as a catalyst for parents, community leaders, advocates, the Children’s Cabinet, and other state agencies to join forces in making Project Great Start a reality. Utilizing federal grant support, the blueprint for Project Great Start was developed. The seeds for a comprehensive early childhood system of services and supports, accessible to every child in Michigan from birth to kindergarten, have been planted.

In 2005 the first phase of Great Start Collaboratives were funded in selected counties in Michigan. Livingston County was awarded a start up grant in the fall of 2008. Now every county in the State has a Great Start Collaborative at work.

Great Start Collaborative ( In Livingston County this is the “Great Start Livingston” ) Great Start Collaboratives serve as the local infrastructure for governance, planning, investment, advocacy and innovation for the statewide Great Start system. Great Start Collaboratives grapple on a daily basis with difficult, complex but ultimately rewarding tasks of assessing the needs of young children and families in their communities; identifying community assets for addressing those needs, planning for systemic change that ensures those assets are aimed at , and implementing efforts to address the gaps, strengthen what works and knock down local barriers that may range from ineffective structures or policies to lack of resources and programs that impede young children from arriving at kindergarten ready to learn.

Great Parents, Great Start Great Parents, Great Start is a legislatively funded, community-based grant program to serve the parents of all children, birth to five years of age. The legislature authorized each intermediate school district to direct a portion of its state school funds for the provision of a variety of parent education services to interested families.

The goals of this program are to improve school readiness, encourage literacy, reduce the need for special education services and foster the maintenance of stable families by encouraging positive parenting skills; enhancing parent-child interaction; providing learning opportunities to promote intellectual, physical and social growth; and promoting access to needed community services through a community-school-home partnership that provides parents with information on child development from birth to age five.

Grants offer services to families with children age five or younger residing with the intermediate school district who choose to participate. Services include:

  • Providing parents with information on child development from birth to age five.
  • Providing parents with methods to enhance parent-child interaction that promote social and emotional development and age-appropriate language, mathematics, and early reading skills for young children; including, but not limited to, encouraging parents to read to their preschool children at least one-half hour per day.
  • Promoting access to needed community services through a community-school-home partnership.
  • Providing parents with examples of learning opportunities to promote intellectual, physical, and social growth of young children, including the acquisition of age-appropriate language, mathematics, and early reading skills.

Two Public Funded Preschool Programs: Head Start and Great Start Readiness Program

Head Start is federally funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services while the Great Start Readiness Program ( GSRP ) is the state-funded program based in the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The state-funded program was designed to expand access to preschool for children in families unable to qualify for Head Start or those without access because of too few available, funded Head Start slots.

The two initiatives each offer a developmental preschool program but they differ substantially in eligibility and funding. The federally funded Head Start program primarily provides a four-day preschool experience during the school year (32 weeks) for children ages 3 or 4 in center-based programs, although that is changing as more parents need a full-day, full-year program. In 2006 the majority of Head Start participants were 4-year olds (23,000) with an additional 14,500 3-year olds involved. Early Head Start is a home-visiting component for pregnant women and children ages 0-2. Traditionally 90 percent of children qualified with family income below the poverty level.

Head Start is a comprehensive federally funded preschool program, obligated to provide access to oral and physical health services, and social services. Every Head Start program has a health manager, often a nurse, to complete any missing components of the required physical exam. Head Start staff also conducts screenings and provide follow-up with nutrition, socialization, and mental health counseling.

Great Start Readiness Program

The Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) is Michigan’s preschool program for four year olds. GSRP is a 30-week classroom-based experience to prepare children for kindergarten. At least half of children in any GSRP program must live in families with income below 300 percent of the poverty level, and all must qualify with at least two of 25 risk factors, such as living with a single parent. GSRP helps children get ready for school, increases attendance and reduces the number of children who repeat a grade by almost one-half.

The latest brain research tells us:

  • Brain development occurs most rapidly and easily in the first 3 years.
  • By age 2, we have 90% of our eventual brain weight.
  • 90% of a child's intellectual and social development takes place by age 4.

What Young Children Need to Grow Up Ready to Learn:

  • Healthy mother and prenatal care
  • Nurturing relationships with care givers
  • Safe and healthy environment
  • Stable home life
  • Immunizations and regular check-ups
  • Exercise and well balanced diet
  • Stimulating learning experiences

Stimulating/Quality Learning Experiences Can Occur:

  • At home
  • Babysitter
  • Daycare home
  • Childcare center
  • Faith-based programs
  • Preschool
  • Playgroups
  • Playgrounds

Why are Quality Early Learning Experiences Important?

  • Optimal physical development
  • Optimal social and emotional development
  • Optimal curiosity and creativity
  • Optimal reasoning and problem solving skills
  • Optimal language development and literacy

The Impact of Quality Early Learning:

  • A child between the ages 2-5 learns an average of 2-8 words a day.
  • 2 words a day X 4 years = 2,920 words by kindergarten
  • 8 words a day X 4 years = 11,680 words by kindergarten

Quality Early Childhood Experiences Lead to School Success:

  • Children who participate in one early learning program increased MEAP test passage by 30% in 4th grade. (Source: MI School Readiness Program)
  • Children who participate in high quality child care are more likely to attend college.

Investing in Quality Early Childhood Development - Impact on Child

  • Increases school preparedness
  • Increases long-term economic success
  • Increases post-secondary education
  • Improves occupational success
  • Improve quality of life

Impact on Society

  • Increases earning capacity/income taxes paid
  • Increases job productivity
  • Increases graduation rate
  • Reduces special education expenses
  • Reduces teen pregnancy rate
  • Reduces crime
  • Reduces poverty

Impact on Workplace

  • Develop quality workforce
  • Reduces cost of training and retraining
  • Reduces absenteeism on the job
  • Increases decision making abilities
  • Increases home ownership and financial responsibility

Make a Difference For Children and our Community… Easy Steps You Can Take, as a Parent, an Educator, a Community Member:

  • Spend time with your child: play, talk, read a book
  • Learn more about recent scientific research in brain development in children through this site and links on this site.
  • Share early childhood development information and the benefits of investment with friends, collegues, grandparents, community leaders and business-send them a link to this site.
  • Support existing programs to support parents and young children in our county: Donate books, toys, clothing, money, or volunteer time
  • Participate in the planning for new programs to support parents and young children. Invite us to your staff meeting, brown bag lunch, moms to moms group, board meeting parish hall or other community meeting to present our “Report to The Community.”
  • Write or email your legislator about the importance of early childhood programs
  • Be a vocal advocate-meet and educate existing law makers and campaigning candidates.
  • Lead your company towards a family friendly environment.
  • Become a community partner: put a link to Great Start Livingston on your business web site or signage in your window. Help us build community awareness through your networks and communication vehicles.
  • Support early childhood community investment with a cash donation or in kind service.
  • Join the Great Start Parent Coalition
  • Join Great Start Collaborative Work Group
  • Be a champion for children in Livingston County!