School Readiness

the first day of kindergarten is one of the most exciting days of a child's life. but if a child isn't ready, it can be the beginning of a long struggle. 

Our Goal

The first five years of a child’s life are a time of enormous social emotional, physical and intellectual growth. Nearly 1/2 of the children in our community are not prepared for kindergarten. Our goal is to close the school readiness gap and to help families gain the tools necessary to achieve the greatest success in preparing their children for kindergarten. Together, with our community partners, United Way of the Black Hills is working to ensure children enter school ready to learn, improve early reading proficiency, increase attendance, and graduation rates.

Our Strategies:

  • Connect parents and families to information, resources and support.
    • Examples: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Baby’s First Book Bag
  • Create an Early Childhood educators network that works to provide resources and support to providers in the Black Hills.
  • Help to improve the quality and access to early childhood opportunities for children and families in South Dakota.
  • Build the awareness of the importance of data collection and sharing in South Dakota.
  • Implement informational campaigns to educate more individuals living in South Dakota.


  • For every 50 children who don’t learn to read in kindergarten – 44 of them will be less likely to be proficient readers by 3rd grade.
  • Half of families with children under the age of 6 earn below 200% of poverty line. In a two parent home that is $32,480 and $24,120 in a single parent family and childcare can easily cost up to $7,000 a year in SD.
  • Approximately 27 states collect data on school readiness of children entering Kindergarten.
  • 85% of the brains neural connections are made in the first 5 years of life. Yet this age group has the least amount of focus nationally and in South Dakota.
  • Nearly 25% of SD children are unaccounted for and have no access to early childhood education before entering Kindergarten. 



Baby's First Book Bag

A collection of early literacy materials, developmental check lists and other community literacy resources. 

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

A book is mailed monthly to families with children under the age of 5,  who might not otherwise be able to afford age appropriate books for thier children.

Family Connections

Connecting teachers, parents and students to ensure every child has the resources in-home and in school to succeed.

Want to know more?