Early Learning Alliance #ReadytoRead

September 2021 Book Feature

This September, we are exploring Moon Rope un Lazo a la Luna by Lois Elhert.  This whimsical children’s story is told in both English and Spanish.

Lois Elhert is an award winning children’s book author. One of her most popular books is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Language comes before literacy.

A child must have a strong foundation of language before they can start to read. Language is a result of knowledge from life experiences. Every time you go to a park and talk about the squirrels, take a trip to the zoo, or visit the children’s museum, children are finding new language and making them more ready to read.

Here’s an example.

A child learning how to read is asked to guess a word based on clues from the picture. The picture is a girl with her hair in a bun wearing a tutu and the word being asked to guess is “ballet”. The child has never seen a tutu or heard of ballet. The child has no life experience to guess the word. The child becomes frustrated and feels defeated. Meanwhile, another child in the group is taking a dance class and says “DANCER!” or maybe even “BALLET”. The child with the life experience is praised for the right answer and the first child still has no context for the image or the task. How would that make you feel?

Being ready to read is a global conversation. The International Literacy Association published a document in 2017 that said knowledge building is the base of literacy and children do better by building life experiences than they do academic rigor during the early years of school.

The Work

Explorations V Children’s Museum is the hub of a new Early Learning Alliance that is getting kids across Central Florida #ReadytoRead. Initiatives both inside and outside of the Museum are working on intentional language gains with special focus on reaching kids in vulnerable situations.

Another key element is to amplify the work being done in neighboring communities. This is not a Polk County problem, this is a global problem. What works here may not work somewhere else. We must be willing to share outcomes (both good and bad) to continue working towards progress.

The Data

Millions of dollars are invested locally each year in promoting kindergarten readiness and literacy. Over the last decade, overall impact has been flat. We must come together as a community and evolve the way we engage early learners based on what we know now instead of what we have always done.

This chart reflects 2019 data from Florida Department of Education.

Polk County Kindergarten Ready Rate
Hardee County Kindergarten Readiness Rate
Highlands County Kindergarten Readiness Rate
Polk County 3rd Grade Reading On Level
Hardee County 3rd Grade Reading On Level
Highlands County 3rd Grade Reading On Level

Explorations V’s #ReadytoRead Goals for 2021

  • Feature diverse authors

    Provide virtual, free content that introduces people to new authors. Help families expand their bookshelves and their knowledge.

  • Focus on langauge

    Provide key language in each exhibit area so grownups can find ways to use them in conversation.

  • Start Young

    Language growth starts at birth. Explorations V will make intentional connections with infant and toddler care facilities and parent groups to help focus language growth early and often.

Explorations V’s #ReadytoRead 2020 Success

  • Provided 1,600+ children and grownups with an educator-directed, standards-aligned hands-on language growth program

  • Produced 124 unique language development programs and delivered them in and out of the Museum

  • Created a professional development program with Early Learning Coalition of Polk County for early childhood education teachers


Family Fundamentals is a storefront for United Way of Central Florida’s Success by 6 initiative. Family Fundamentals rents space from Explorations V so families coming to receive social services and access to free developmentally appropriate play groups can also gain access to the Museum. The Museum’s educators teach a weekly class on site as part of their free programming and participate in community-wide outreach events.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded Explorations V Children’s Museum a 3 year grant to start the Early Learning Alliance. IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Early Learning Coalition of Polk County partners with Explorations V Children’s Museum to provide professional development opportunities for early childhood educators which focus on language & literacy, developmentally appropriate practice, teacher/child interactions, math, science & more! In addition, the Coalition supports the Museum’s mission by referring families from the community to participate in their daily programming/exhibits & summer camp opportunities.

Polk County Schools has partnered with Explorations V Children’s Museum in various ways since the mid-1990s. Currently, Explorations V is working directly with Jesse Keen Elementary. EVCM is an active member of the school’s advisory board, provides attendance incentives, and supports the school’s overall academic success.

GCM’s work as a children’s museum aligns closely with the goals of the Exploration V’s Early Learning Alliance through world-class hands-on exhibits and robust educational programs including Learn and Play Tampa Bay.

Great Explorations V Children’s Museum is the children’s museum in St. Petersburgh, Florida. Great Explorations and Explorations V have a reciprocal membership program to promote extended exploration at each other’s sites which promotes greater language development.