WICHITA—The Kansas Health Foundation approved nearly $2.7 million in funding for community-led initiatives in Kansas, to improve early childhood literacy and kindergarten readiness. These community projects will support eight priority school districts with significant disparities in educational attainment, specifically lower fourth grade literacy rates: Arkansas City, Dodge City, Garden City, Kansas City and Turner-KC, Liberal, Topeka and Wichita.

In 2019, 66 percent of Kansas students were not reading at grade level by fourth grade. These students are four times more likely to drop out of high school, with the achievement gap even wider among children of color and those from low-income families. This has long-term implications for health, employment and overall well-being.

"We know there is a direct link between higher levels of educational attainment and better health outcomes and a greater overall quality of life," said Reggie Robinson, KHF president and CEO. "Community stakeholders are in the best position to assess their unique early literacy needs and propose coordinated approaches to address gaps that lead to increased literacy for children from birth to age eight."

Eight community collaboratives will receive approximately $300,000 each (over three years), working in partnership with school districts and other community organizations, including literacy providers, libraries, faith-based and other non-profit entities. Each community has identified specific needs and strategies to support early childhood literacy. KHF has retained The Improve Group to evaluate this multi-year initiative (for $243,000).

The Kansas Health Foundation is based in Wichita, but statewide in its focus. With a mission to improve the health of all Kansans, KHF envisions a culture in which every Kansan can make healthy choices where they live, work and play. To achieve this, KHF focuses its work in four impact areas: access to affordable health care, healthy behaviors, civic and community engagement and educational attainment.