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August 18, 2000

First Lady Launches DHS Project Under Futures for Kids Program

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan and Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today launched a new reading readiness program to increase early learning and improve the quality of childcare through the use of vans under the Department of Human Services.

Six new vans were lined end to end at a ceremony at the Illinois State Fairgrounds where the First Family launched the program. DHS has 18 vans that will travel throughout the state to reach children and parents of all ages.

"You, like I, believe that children will have a better chance of succeeding in school if there is a solid foundation from which to build," Mrs. Ryan said.

Last fall, Governor and Mrs. Ryan announced the Quality Enhancement grants that have been consolidated into Quality Counts. Quality Counts is a public education initiative designed to focus attention not only on the cost and availability of childcare but on its quality.

"Early learning is critical to later success in school and with quality childcare, children will have a better chance as they reach formal school age," said Governor Ryan.

The vans are equipped with educational materials, lesson plans and books that are loaned to childcare providers. The focus of the materials is reading readiness. The vans are designed to increase the resources available to childcare providers in order to improve the quality of care.

"Everyone who has cared for young children knows they are eager to learn," said DHS Secretary Linda Renee' Baker. "The books and games in these vans will help childcare providers whet those young appetites. Since 60 percent of children are in license exempt care, our primary focus will be making the materials available to these providers."

Each van also will be equipped with the Futures for Kids Reading Kits developed in conjunction with the Illinois State Board of Education. The vans will be operated out of the 17 ChildCare Resource and Referral agencies throughout the state. Providers are also encouraged to work with families to encourage everyday reading and the important role parents play as their child's first teacher.


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