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Excel By 5 and READ First recently merged into the Early Childhood Coalition, serving children birth to age 9 to ensure school readiness and grade-level reading.

Excel By 5 is an innovative early childhood community certification process focusing on a community’s young children. It emphasizes the important roles parents and early childhood educators play in the lives of children during their most formative years – birth to age 5.

Tupelo/Lee County has been a certified early childhood community since 2016.

In 2017, Shelly Brooks joined the United Way staff as the certification manager for Excel By 5, thanks to a grant from the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund. Under Shelly’s leadership, Lee County has seen the building of new relationships between school districts and childcare centers, professional development and resource sharing between schools, childcares, and Head Start, and amazing growth in all aspects of Excel By 5: health and safety, family and parent support, and early care and education.

Excel By 5 also provides 1,200 children each month with free books through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a state and national community-wide partnership in to ensure all our children reach their full potential. This initiative began with a partnership between United Way of Northeast Mississippi and the CREATE Foundation and includes both Tupelo and Lee County school districts, which serve approximately 14,000 students. It also includes 55 daycare/childcare centers within the county. The community of Tupelo/Lee County has united and made a commitment to our children’s success.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on 3 underlying challenges that keep many young children from learning to read well: School Readiness, Student Attendance, and Summer Learning.

School Readiness: The two school districts, Head Start centers, childcare centers, and Lee County Excel By 5 have made great strides in just a few months by developing partnerships. Observations of kindergarten teachers, monthly meetings, childcare centers using school computer labs, and professional development opportunities are making a huge difference in developing strong relationships.

Student Attendance: The public school districts are diligently working on plans to reduce chronic absenteeism in the early years of school.

Summer Learning: Our summer learning group is actively gathering data on existing programs to develop a centralized source of information about summer learning opportunities.

For more information, contact Shelly Brooks at shelly@unitedwaynems.org or 662-432-0170.

Excel By 5 Resources and News

Excel By 5 website

Lee County Excel By 5 on Facebook

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Excel By 5 Resource Guide 2018

UNITED (WAY) APPROACH: Initiatives seeking to make impact on early education (Daily Journal)

Back 2 School Resource Fair provides supplies for Lee County children

Pilot program prepares new kindergarteners: NEMS Daily Journal

Excel by 5 program expanding to more kids

Read First In the News

Tupelo/Lee County Joins Nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading 

The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading website


UNITED (WAY) APPROACH: Initiatives seeking to make impact on early education (Daily Journal)

READ First Coalition seeks to create learning directory (Daily Journal)

OUR OPINION: Early education initiatives worthwhile (Daily Journal)

Tupelo and Lee County join nationwide collaboration to improve third-grade reading (Daily Journal)