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Ready to Learn

"It's about resilience. It's about health outcomes. It's about school attendance. It's about Pre-K, access to immunizations, nutrition, and social work. There are far too many obstacles that are getting in the way of getting it right."
Dr. Rev. Matthew Johnson
Senior Pastor, Unitarian Universalist Church

Family Well-Being Activities Amid COVID-19

Today, we are living a different kind of life with our children and experiencing new emotions and feelings. What we do and how we deal with these new experiences will have a lasting impact on our children’s futures.

To help better our at-home experiences with our children click here to download a month-long calendar of activities and exercises that are meant only to take a few moments out of the day. We encourage you to share with your family and friends. Enjoy!

What is the Ready to Learn Initiative?

Based on data collected in 2019, in regard to Rockford’s youngest learners and feedback from the Rockford community to guide and push transformative change, the Ready to Learn Initiative identified the following three main workgroups to focus their work to improve kindergarten readiness in the Rockford community:

  • Family-friendly neighborhoods
  • Early childhood continuity team
  • Coaching & support for parents/families and professionals

The Ready to Learn initiative also sparked two additional workgroups:

  • Community Connectors, a team of individuals that are highly connected in the community and can help facilitate new strategic partnerships
  • Policy Roundtable, a team focused on working with state a local government officials to change policy, drive funding and align resources

Both will help further align resources so the Rockford community becomes a place where all young people thrive.

Members of the Ready to Learn Team know that improving kindergarten readiness will improve the outcomes for students, families, neighborhoods, and our region. 


Once the surveys are collected, the data is interpreted onto area maps, which will show where children have strengths and opportunities for growth across a geographic area. This population approach provides a community-level understanding in child development that local municipalities, schools, service providers and other stakeholders can use to inform where efforts and resources should be focused. Below are some examples of the maps from other Erikson communities. After the maps are made public, communities, organizations, and industry leaders will work on creating solutions for these vulnerable areas. 

The Big Bang

A child’s ability to read at or above reading level at 3rd grade is a critical indicator of a child’s success in school and life. Children who do not read at grade level by third grade face a greater risk of struggling academically in future years. After hearing this information, Alignment Rockford, Transform Rockford, and the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE) hosted a half-day workshop facilitated by the Tamarack Institute. The purpose of this workshop was to learn more about the scope of the problem and work with invited community members on determining obstacles and improving outcomes. This workshop identified a group of people who are willing to help at different levels for this initiative.

In the following months, The Winnebago County Office gathered prominent Rockford leaders to place emphasis on reading outside of school, particularly during the summer, to prevent children from falling back during summer and to celebrate reading as a culture. The #Read815 Challenge worked to promote the importance of reading and gained national attention from Rockford-born celebrities like Dean Lowry (NFL Green Bay Packers) and Fred VanVleet (NBA Toronto Raptors).

The purpose of these initiatives was to create awareness and urgency around 3rd grade reading. However, the importance of this topic created a larger movement...

The Ready to Learn Team

There was a lot of deliberation after the summit, and while 3rd grade reading levels are important, the cause of this starts well before 3rd grade, and impacts more than just literacy. The problem was, our community did not have the tools to find the sources of these issues. Rockford Public Schools attended a Birth to “Three Year Old Educational Conference” featuring the Erikson Institute, a Chicago graduate school focused on early childhood development. Erikson has the tools and resources to help us determine where children are vulnerable, where they are strong, and how their surroundings impact their development. The stars aligned, and Erikson and RPS started a new partnership. Soon after, they enlisted Alignment Rockford and Transform Rockford as main community partners – eventually, we formed the Ready to Learn Team with the organizations below to help drive Erikson’s tools for our community. 

  • Public, Private and Parochial Schools (listed below) 
  • Transform Rockford Neighborhoods and Families Team
  • United Way
  • Winnebago County Health Department
  • Rockford Register Star
  • KIDS 
  • One Body Collaborative
  • The Literacy Council
  • Goodwill
  • Faith-Based Institutions
  • Rock Valley College
  • University of Illinoise College of Medicine
  • Northern Illinois Center of Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE)
  • Youth Services Network
  • Rockford Park District
  • Discovery Center
  • Rockford Police Department
  • Carpenters Place
  • CASA
  •  Crusader Community Health
  • Rockford Public Library 

…and many more! 

Here's a look at the Ready to Learn Team's role within the EDI process. Click on the image to read the entire document!

Erikson Institute and the EDI Tool

Erikson brings something new to the table that hadn’t been considered before: The Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-based measure similar to a kindergarten census. The Erikson institute focuses on using the EDI to determine the vulnerabilities of a population’s children in the five developmental domains: Physical Health and Well-Being, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language and Cognitive, and Communication Skills. By measuring these domains for every child at the kindergarten level, the community will be able to see where our children are struggling. The results from the create maps, and these heat maps will overlay other geographical data like transit routes, medical clinics, parks, community centers, and more. Scroll down to read more information about the EDI.

Participating Schools

The EDI is a population based measure on our kindergarten children. While we are not measuring their academic achievement, data collection remained in the schools to create a holistic benchmark for students in the developmental domains. We thank all the schools that participated in this initiative!

  • Barbour Two-Way Language Immersion
  • Bloom Elementary School
  • Brookview Elementary School
  • Carlson Elementary School
  • Cherry Valley Elementary School
  • Concordia Lutheran School (St. Paul Campus)
  • Conklin Elementary School
  • Ellis Elementary School
  • Froberg Elementary School
  • Gregory Elementary School
  • Haskell Elementary School
  • Hillman Elementary School
  • Holy Family 
  • Johnson Elementary School
  • Keith Country Day School
  • Kishwaukee Elementary School 
  • Lathrop Elementary School
  • Lewis Lemon Elementary School
  • McIntosh Elementary School
  • Montessori School
  • Nelson Elementary School
  • Riverdahl Elementary School
  • Rockford Lutheran Academy
  • Rolling Green Elementary School
  • Spectrum School
  • Spring Creek Elementary School
  • St. Bridget
  • St. James (Belvidere)
  • St. James (Rockford)
  • St. Rita
  • Washington Elementary School
  • Welsh Elementary School
  • West View Elementary School
  • Whitehead Elementary School

Developmental Domains

Each kindergarten teacher has completed a 103 question survey on each of their students against the following domains:

If you'd like to learn more about the EDI, click and save the resources below!