Rebecca Lyons, MPH
Kane County Health Department
Phone: (630) 232-5829
Let’s Talk: A Community Deeply Rooted in Conversation
Kane County is the fifth largest county in Illinois, with a 2010 population of 515,269. Kane County is located about 35 miles west of Chicago. It has a small rural area (2.3% of total population), mostly in the western half of the County. Most of its urban population surrounds the beautiful Fox River. Kane County is the 7th youngest county in Illinois, with a median age of 34 and16% of the total population is 5-14 year olds. The total population of children under 5 years is 38,031. Top-notch resources in the county include outstanding education systems and facilities, top-rated healthcare and easy access to shopping districts. Community engagement is a value that is woven within the fabric of this community. It is common to see local leaders engaging folks in conversation and is what this county takes pride in. The communities of Kane County boast countless events and festivals throughout the year, drawing in visitors from all over, making it a great community for families with young children.
Kane County is a community that thrives on conversations and engaging people in important decisions. Kane County All Our Kids (AOK) Network has decided from the beginning of their partnership that conversations are a necessary part of transforming and making change in their community. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when Kane’s AOK decided to address Kindergarten Readiness with this focus. The Network began to engage and mobilize school districts and child care centers to have exploratory discussions on the significance of early learning. Through a collaborative process with the Early Learning Collaborative in Aurora and Elgin, the Network’s Kindergarten Readiness Workgroup collectively decided to present three early learning forums and present the new KIDS (Kindergarten Individual Development Survey) tool. Through this approach the network was able to facilitate an exchange of shared efforts on school readiness, and contribute their own experience to shape a policy agenda that informs parents and the community about school readiness.
The Network had several discoveries during these conversations. First they understood that school districts and child care centers are conducting various forms of school readiness with children and engaging parents in the process. Second, some barriers and challenges existed to school readiness. Last, providers enjoyed networking with other school districts and child care centers.
Through exploratory conversations this AOK Network not only was able to introduce a tool that helped assess Kindergarten Readiness but they also learned about what is currently working among school districts and child care centers while increasing opportunities for parent leadership and empowerment.
Too often programs fall into a process of recycling and repeating efforts in communities with little to no knowledge about past efforts and what already exists. Unfortunately, much resources and time get wasted repeating things that did not work well before or overlook efforts currently being made and alienating partners as a result. These important conversations ensured that Kane’s AOK remained informed about their community. As a result, they are able to better tailor their public information efforts on Kindergarten Readiness around the foundation that already exists while addressing the gaps that partners identified and collectively work towards making impacts on transforming their community.