United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education hosts premiere international literacy conference
On Saturday, August 4, the United Way of Miami-Dade Center for Excellence in Early Education Early Reading First/Project LEER held its premiere professional development event, South Florida Early Literacy Conference.  More than 300 early childhood education directors, administrators, coaches, curriculum specialists and teachers from across the United States and Latin America attended.

“This event represents the first time the South Florida early education community comes together to support a local conference focused on children’s early literacy,” Gladys Montes, vice president, United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, said.  “We know that children who read proficiently by the third grade do better in school across all disciplines and are more likely to graduate and pursue higher education. Early literacy is a critical strategy to success.”

Conference attendees learned industry best practices from nationally recognized experts and were also given the opportunity to earn continuing education credits.  The conference was divided into different tracks of expertise, including: directors and administrators, infant and toddler educators, and pre-K teachers. 

Conference keynote speaker Dr. Lea McGee, the Marie Clay Distinguished Chair of Reading Recovery and Early Literacy at The Ohio State University, commented on her experience: “I was impressed by the number of educators willing and eager to dedicate their Saturday to learning more about young children’s early language and literacy development. Their attendance speaks to the high quality of early education in Miami-Dade County.”

Other presenters included David Lawrence Jr., Children’s Movement of Florida; Jeremy Glazer, Read to Learn; Evelio Torres, The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe; Dr. Mel Jurado Florida’s Office of Early Learning; master storyteller and writer Donna (Mama Koku) Buie; award-winning children’s author and illustrator Dar Hosta; Dr. Miledis Gort, University of Miami; author Judy Jablon,; educational consultant Jonathan Fribley; United Way’s Early Reading First: Project LEER team; and Eileen Shimony, Teaching Strategies. 

Joining United Way in hosting the conference were Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, The Children’s Trust, The Children’s Movement of Florida, The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and Quality Counts Career Forum.

Early Reading First/Project LEER is a program of the U.S. Department of Education that supports the development of early childhood centers of excellence focusing on all areas of development, particularly early language, pre-reading and cognitive skills.  The United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education was awarded a $3.6 million Project LEER grant in 2009.