NEWS
Early Learning Web Site Puts
Preschool Teaching Advice and Materials Online

Lura Lynn Ryan NEWS RELEASE
First Lady of Illinois

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2001
CONTACT: Karen Fincutter
(312) 814-3158
Illinois State Board of Education
217/782-4648 or 312/814-1486

SPRINGFIELD – First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan and State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee today unveiled the state’s new Early Learning Web Site – providing online assistance to parents of preschoolers.

“The web site is an important new online resource for parents, caregivers and teachers of preschoolers in Illinois because it helps to prepare children for school,” said McGee. “When education starts before children enter school, they begin already knowing the basics and can progress more easily onto new material. This web site will provide new ways to educate and nurture children prior to the start of school.”

The site, which is part of the Illinois Early Learning Project, was initiated and funded by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), working with Futures for Kids, an umbrella initiative for programs and policies under the direction of First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education based at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign designed and built the site with a $320,000 project grant. The web site address is www.illinoisearlylearning.org.

“Research shows that early learning helps prepare children for success, both in school and throughout life,” said Mrs. Ryan. “This early emphasis is a focus of the Futures for Kids program and the Early Learning web site is one more resource to help parents and child care educators make a difference in children’s lives at an early age.”

The web site, which was introduced as part of the “Illinois Child Care – Making Connections” conference in Springfield, will make information more accessible to those individuals and groups who are traditionally not easily reached by other means. The site will deliver useful information in an accessible format, especially in the area of language and literacy development. Materials are written in both English and Spanish, as well as, other languages common in Illinois. On many topics, tip sheets can easily be printed and distributed. Workshops and training events have been already scheduled around the state, mostly in underserved areas, to help people become familiar with this web site. And on-line chats with experts, including physicians and educators, parents and other providers are available.

"We believe that the more information people have that is tailored to what they need, when they need it, the more likely they are to take advantage of that information and do a better job with the kids," said Dianne Rothenberg, co-director of the ERIC Clearing House on Elementary and Early Childhood Education along with UI professor Lilian Katz.

Another goal of the Illinois Early Learning Project, which will continue under development through next summer, is to tie the material to Illinois events and issues. Already in place as part of the project is a calendar and state map through which users can find workshops in given months and given regions. Eventually, all the state's early learning standards will be listed and defined on the site, with links to related material. Even child-care workers and preschool teachers will have teaching material at their fingertips.

"Parents pretty much need all the help they can get," said McGee. “Through the new project, we wanted to provide parents and caregivers with the best-researched, most-important information about how to maximize their child's early years."