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Why It Is Important


United Way Early Childhood Literacy


Our new Early Childhood Literacy Initiative, The Early Literacy Innovation Zone (Innovation Zone) is partnering to provide children free access to the cutting edge literacy application, Footsteps2Brilliance! All children (from birth to third grade) in Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Pepperell, Philipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend and Winchendon can download this powerful literacy tool.  The demographic breakdown within these communities spans the spectrum from low to high income, urban to rural and a melting pot of ethnic and cultural communities.

Why is it important?

Children from low-income families arrive in kindergarten with a 30 MILLION word gap in their vocabulary as compared to their middle and upper-income classmates.  

Research has shown that a child's reading level when they reach 3rd grade is a direct indicator of their ability to succeed in their education.  By reaching children BEFORE they enter Pre-K or Kindergarten and by adding high impact material within their curriculum in school directly improves 3rd grade reading skills, which leads to improved graduation rates.

As part of the Legacy Ten Innovation Zone communities, we deliberately targeted towns with lower graduation rates and high poverty rates to participate, in an effort to jump-start a lifetime of learning, by helping children in these communities begin kindergarten on an even playing field with their peers.  Our vision is to reach all of the communities in the North Central Massachusetts region by 2023.  

What are we trying to accomplish?

As part of the Innovation Zone (powered by Footsteps2Brilliance), United Way of North Central Massachusetts has a vision of providing every child with an even playing field as they prepare for early learning.  Your contribution of any amount will enable children to continue to have access to this incredible resource.  Funds raised for this initiative will help support free access to the application and community specific resources to help bridge the 30 million word gap.  

The goal of United Way’s early education effort is to increase the percentage of children who enter kindergarten with the vocabulary, pre-reading and social-emotional skills they need to succeed in school and in life.  

How we work to achieve our goals

We have created a coalition of the willing – including corporate partners, community organizations, individual volunteers – all willing to be part of the movement to increase early literacy levels in our region.

To support the work that United Way of North Central Massachusetts is doing, an become part of the Early Literacy Innovation Zone of North Central Massachusetts, please consider giving. 


For information on becoming a Literacy Ambassador in your community or to discuss partner level sponsorships please contact Maribeth Janssens (