April 2021


Great Start Collaborative News

Join us June 3rd at 1pm!

Our June GSC Quarterly Meeting will be held via Zoom. We are delighted to have Bethany Foote and Laura Ynclan leading us in a celebration of this past year! Additionally, the Kalamazoo County Early Childhood Racial Equity Cohort will share about their work. An email will be sent to the address you provide in your RSVP.

Community School Readiness Surveys

The pandemic has brought many challenges for children and families, but it has also created opportunity for reflection. In February, we asked our community to complete a survey about the deficiencies in our early childhood system, as well as the positive gifts. We are so grateful for all who shared. If you would like to learn more about people's responses to these questions, please check out these slides.

Despite the MANY challenges everyone has faced in the past year, we know there are some things to celebrate. Please take a moment to answer this 2-question survey about the successes achieved in your home, classroom or organization.


Talking is Teaching Early Literacy Campaign

The greatest amount of brain growth occurs between birth and age five. Kalamazoo County Talking is Teaching is committed to improving children's early literacy development by informing parents and caregivers of the simple, everyday actions they can take, to make a real difference beginning at birth. By tuning in, talking more and taking turns, those little brains can grow by leaps and bounds!

During the month of April, Talking is Teaching is talking about SHAPES! Why is identifying shapes important? Many of the letters of the alphabet that a child needs to learn are often made of shapes. Seeing circles and triangles and the letters they form will help children recognize them as letters later.

You can help young children explore shapes in a number of ways; encourage them to look for different shapes in their home or classroom. Focus on a certain shape each day and see if they can find ten of those circles or triangles or squares in their surroundings. If you go out, you can ask them to find specific shapes when you go for walks or through the window of your car or even at the grocery store. You’ll be amazed at how creative children can be finding the different shapes in the world around them! Download our SHAPES Literacy Toolkit. (en español)

If you would like to incorporate Talking is Teaching messaging, materials, and resources into your work with children and families, please reach out to Jen Stroven, Campaign Manager, at or by calling 269.250.9701. Virtual staff and volunteer trainings are available for scheduling. Come join the campaign!


Upcoming Family Events

Virtual Parent Cafe

Tuesday, May 11th 7:30-8:30pm
The Parent Cafe is designed to be a space for parents and caregivers to talk about the challenges and victories of raising a family. Schedule some time for yourself to connect with other parents in the community! We hope to see you there!

Virtual Parent Forum: Summer Family Fun!

Tuesday, May 18th 7:30-8:30pm
Kalamazoo County Great Start Collaborative's Parent Coalition is excited to host a Virtual Parent Forum on Tuesday, May 18th at 7:30pm. The Forum will feature local community organizations to talk about what fun opportunities will be offered for families this summer. Everyone who attends the forum will receive a free book for their family. Can't wait to see you there!

Virtual Parent Coalition Meeting

Tuesday, May 25th 7:30-8:30pm
Thursday, May 27th 1:30-2:30pm
Parent Coalition Meetings are opportunities for parents and caregivers to connect and take action on ways we can help support families in our community. There is an evening and daytime session so that you can select which one works best for your schedule. Your voice matters!

Upcoming Talking Is Teaching Events

Participants will receive a Talking is Teaching Literacy Bag that includes a book and materials with lots of ideas of how you can talk, read and sing at home! All participants will be entered into a raffle to win a $25 Gift Card!

Talking is Teaching Parent Skill-building Session: Let's Talk About BEDTIME. May 19, 1:30 - 2pm

Talking is Teaching Virtual Playgroup: Let's Talk About BEDTIME!
May 6th 10:00-10:30am
This event is designed for families with children ages 0-5. We will read a story, sing songs, and do some fun interactive activities together.


Great Start Collaborative Staff

Sarah Drumm, Program Coordinator, 269-250-9635

Deirdre Bartells, Program Assistant, 269-250-9664

Ashley Drenth, Parent Liaison, 269-250-9665

Jen Stroven, Talking is Teaching Campaign Manager, 269-250-9701


Great Start Collaborative Vision

A Great Start for every child in Kalamazoo County: safe, healthy and successful in school and life.

Great Start Collaborative Mission

The purpose of the Great Start Collaborative is to ensure a coordinated system of community resources and family supports in Kalamazoo County.

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