What is RED Ahead?

RED AHEAD  (Read Every Day to get Ahead)013 YES edit

RED Ahead provides parents information and activities to help their young children develop the language skills they need to be ready for kindergarten.  Currently offered at the Urban and North Towne WIC clinics (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), the program is a collaboration between United Way of East Central Iowa and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP).


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Families meet with an Early Literacy Specialist during their WIC visits to learn the next steps in their child’s development. At meetings, families receive educational materials, age appropriate books, and activities that promote their child’s early language and literacy skills.

Twice a year, families are provided the opportunity to complete a developmental screening for their child.  Utilizing the Ages and Cierra 002Stages screening enables parents to ensure their child is on track developmentally and receive support for areas of potential concern.

RED Ahead began in September 2011 and continues to enroll Urban and North Towne WIC clients who have a baby under one year old, and clients who are in their third trimester of pregnancy. Families remain enrolled in RED Ahead until their child turns five.
As of June 30, 2014, RED Ahead had 1,347 families active in the program. Between July 31, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 5,539 age-appropriate books were given to children.



Parents Surveyed Results
98% feel more prepared to support [their] child’s language development and pre-reading skills
97% practiced skills learned at RED Ahead at home
100% practiced additional activities with children

Children receiving multiple developmental screenings
98% maintained or improved language and early literacy skills
95% maintained or improved cognitive skills
95% maintained or improved social-emotional skills




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Reading at grade level

Since last year, 10 percent fewer low-income fourth graders are reading at grade level in our area. Our RED Ahead program is working on the issue.

A Success Story

“I had a family come into the RED Ahead office with a 5-day-old baby girl. The mom was 17 and the dad was 18. They seemed slightly over¬whelmed, tired and not particularly interested in coming to RED Ahead. But as I started telling them that there were things they could be doing now to help their daughter, the dad became quite engaged. As I demonstrated, “Looking the baby in the eye, smiling and talking to her” she began to make eye contact and become more alert.

The parents could see she was responding to me. The dad said “I had no idea we should be talking to her. I didn’t think she could even hear us.”

When they left the office and went to the lobby, I observed the dad holding the baby and talking to her in the manner that I had just demon¬strated!”
Diana Strahan, Early Literacy Specialist, HACAP