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WSU Extension Literacy Project for Latino Childcare Providers Poised to Expand

PASCO, Wash. – A nearly $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will allow major expansion of a Washington State University Extension project aimed at increasing literacy among Latino childcare providers, which in turn will improve the care of hundreds of young children in the area.

The Gates Foundation recently awarded $967,000 to WSU Extension for the Literacy and Educational Pathways for Latino Child Care Providers project, an outgrowth of the Spanish Literacy Project. The project was initiated and operated by a community coalition led by a team of WSU Extension educators in Franklin County. The grant runs from January 2008 through March 2011.

“The primary goal of the Pathways project is to improve the educational advancement of Latino child care providers and thus increase the quality of care for the children in their licensed family child care environments,” said Kay Hendrickson, Franklin County Extension director.

Hendrickson, along with the community coalition, started a pilot Spanish Literacy project in March 2007 with seed money from Women Helping Women Tri-Cities Fund and Bank of America. That pilot began with 28 family home child care providers, who care for nearly 150 children ages 11 years and younger. The child care providers meet every Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday evening after work to learn how to write sentences, do basic math and read stories in Spanish.

“I want to learn to read and write so that I can help the children that I have under my care,” one participant wrote after six months in the project. When she started, she would not have been able to express herself in writing.

The expansion of the project will begin in January at WSU Franklin County Extension and will serve 40 child care providers working on their primary and secondary education. It will also allow for 20 additional child care providers to participate in instruction in Early Childhood Education coursework at Columbia Basin College that will prepare the providers to earn their Spanish Child Development Associate National Credential. In addition, a portion of the instruction at CBC will offer English as a Second Language curriculum to give child care providers the English language tools needed to provide a pathway to continue early childhood education coursework in the future.

Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension, said the Pathways project could become a model not only in Washington but throughout the United States.

“The Gates Foundation investment as well as partnerships with other area agencies allows us to take the Pathways project to the next level,” she said.

Fox and Hendrickson said the project would not have been possible without the support of the Franklin County commissioners. They provided seed money for computers for project participants as well as classroom space.

“This is such exciting news,” Franklin County Commissioner Neva Corkrum said of the Gates Foundation Grant. “If we can improve the quality of child care our children receive, they’re going to do better in school. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Community partners in the Pathways project are: Franklin County, Columbia Basin College, Benton Franklin Health District, Kennewick Division of the Department of Early Learning, Benton Franklin Head Start, Benton Franklin Community Action Committee, School’s Out Washington and individual community leaders.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources – have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards $967,000 to help Latino childcare providers increase quality of child care.

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Media Contacts

Linda Kirk, associate vice president and dean, 509-335-2933
Kay Hendrickson, director of Franklin County office, 509-545-3511