Grant award supports Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition’s array of literacy efforts

A $22,500 grant received by the Great Start Collaborative of Charlevoix, Emmet and northern Antrim counties will support new and ongoing initiatives that bring literacy into the lives of area families with children. 

The grant was awarded to the collaborative from the Birth to Five Literacy Support Network Hub, said Savanah Cool, Great Start Collaborative Director. 

“This funding has allowed us to reach even more families with well-planned, fun, and enriching literacy activities for young children, while supporting parents and caregivers in being their child’s first teacher,” said Cool.

The grant funding will support the following ongoing projects of the GSC:

  • Talking is Teaching – Diaper Time totes: 350 totes have been assembled which include a Let’s Talk About Diaper Time poster, children’s book and mirror, Talking is Teaching prompts, reusable wipes container, wipes, Sleep Baby Safe and Snug safe sleep book, and information about child development milestones. The totes are distributed via GSC partners including pediatricians, WIC program, Early On, Early Head Start, Moms & Tots, Women’s Resource Center Playgroups, home and center-based child care providers, and at community events. 
  • Talking is Teaching – Storytime totes: 350 totes have been assembled and include a Let’s Talk About Letters poster, a children’s book, Let’s Talk About Books lap blanket, and information about child development and milestones. Distribution is similar to the Diaper Time totes outlined above in addition to partnering with community libraries. 

The funds will also support improvements and new additions to the FreeCycle Book program:

  • New book donation collection bins.
  • New book distribution bins.
  • Purchase of 1,125 new books to increase representation of diverse cultures and races. 

Cool said the Talking is Teaching campaign is a project that has taken off in the last couple of years, as the collaborative works to encourage parents and caregivers to talk, read, and sing to their children every day.

“Talking is Teaching takes a place-based approach to supporting early brain and language development, and motivates behavior change by meeting parents right where they are,” she noted. “Community members will see Talking is Teaching prompts at grocery stores, laundromats, in schools and at parks and playgrounds. It is an easy way for parents to engage in activities that promote early language and literacy growth for children.”

The FreeCycle book project recently celebrated distributing its 10,000th book, demonstrating the breadth of success of this program as well, Cool said. FreeCycle aims to distribute gently used children’s books throughout the community. Books are collected at bins around the area, sorted, marked with stickers and redistributed at over 60 locations throughout the Charlevoix, Emmet and northern Antrim county area serviced by Char-Em Intermediate School District and the Great Start Collaborative.

“The Great Start Collaborative is a leader in building partnerships within our community to support children and families,” said Cool. “We are grateful for the grant, and the support of our partners and the public to continue growing these successful programs that make small moments big for youth and families.”

Learn more about the Great Start Collaborative online,, and visit its Facebook page, for the latest information on events and activities. 

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