By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Lee County’s Excel By 5 organization will hold an open house on Monday night to inform parents of its efforts to boost services for the county’s youngest residents.
The event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at Verona Elementary. It also will spotlight the school’s new resource center that provides learning activities geared toward children ages 3 to 5.
The center resulted from a grant the organization received from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.
Excel By 5 is a Mississippi program designed to provide better supports for children from birth to age 5. It outlines a series of steps participating communities must take in order to be certified as being early childhood-friendly communities.
Lee County’s organization is in the process of trying to become certified. Beverly Williams, Lee County’s certification manager, said the organization has met many of its goals but is still working toward criteria that the county’s early childhood centers must meet.
Monday’s meeting will be a chance to update parents on those efforts, Williams said. The organization also wants parents of young children to understand the importance of supporting literacy at home. That, Williams said, can be a greater predictor of a child’s future success than family income or education level.
“The word we want to get out to families is there are so many important things you can do with your kids before they start school so they won’t be behind when they get there,” she said.
The resource center at Verona helps with that. Young children can visit it with their parents to engage in several games, puzzles and activities. The $12,000 Carpenter grant provided materials for that center and another one at the Family Resource Center, as well as several children’s resources for the Lee County Library.
Statewide, Excel By 5 has 18 certified communities and 15 candidate communities.