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Early childhood educators offer free literacy and numeracy support

COLBY, Kan. – (FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2021)

Trained educators of Smart Start in Colby are offering free early childhood literacy and numeracy support for all licensed childcare facilities and preschools in northwest Kansas, says Early Childhood Director Maureen Ostmeyer.

Smart Start, an early childhood development initiative operating under the nonprofit LiveWell Northwest Kansas, has worked to ensure children across the region are meeting developmental milestones and emergent literacy and numeracy skills necessary for school success since 2003. Now, they are encouraging all public and private preschools, childcare centers, and family and group childcare facilities to sign up now to receive free support. Eligible agencies include those in the 12 northwestern-most Kansas counties from Cheyenne to Trego.

This free PreK and Early Learning Program is a language, literacy and numeracy assessment tool administered by trained Smart Start staff, to help teachers and providers spot where and how children in their care might be struggling.

“The years between birth and kindergarten are crucial to a child’s overall development,” explains Ostmeyer. “And, with many children living in a home where all of their primary caregivers work full time, it is becoming more and more imperative that preschools, family and group child-care, and centers are equipped to not only nurture developmental milestones, but are also able to evaluate progress and intervene, if needed.”

Assessments take place within the licensed childcare facility, she says. Following the screening, trained Smart Start administrators and care providers review results together to see whether children are meeting benchmarks. Actionable data is provided so that decisions regarding the child’s developmental needs can be made with confidence. And, if needed, Smart Start educators can also present an intervention and share strategies to promote developmentally-appropriate progress.

“We’re glad to help preschool teachers and care providers any way we can to ensure their children are meeting developmental milestones,” says Ostmeyer. “We know that although it’s necessary, giving assessments, evaluating progress, and analyzing data is time consuming. Our goal is to help teachers and caregivers spend more time teaching and playing, and less time assessing. Because that’s our job.”

“With over 20 years of federally funded, comprehensive research, these assessments are reliable and proven to ensure all children are ready for kindergarten,” says LiveWell Director Travis Rickford. “Over 13,000 schools throughout the United States already utilize this tool and we are proud to offer our services free of charge.”

Rickford explains that Smart Start operates under the direction of LiveWell Northwest Kansas. Preschools, child-care centers, and family and group childcare centers within their service area are eligible to receive support, including the Kansas counties of Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Norton, Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Graham, Wallace, Logan, Gove and Trego.

For over 40 years, LiveWell has worked as an advocacy organization providing preventative and educational services, while working to improve all aspects of health throughout northwest Kansas, says Rickford. He says the most effective way to meet their organization’s goals is to enhance the lives of their youngest citizens by improving the early childhood education system and optimizing child and family well-being.

“We do this through Smart Start,” he says. “Smart Start provides access to quality and affordable child-care, parent education, family support and literacy education so that every northwest Kansas child enters kindergarten developmentally ready.”

To sign up, call (785) 465-9103. Ostmeyer can be reached by email at To learn more about LiveWell, email Rickford at or go to


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