Kids On Track

United for Childhood Success

Southern Tier Kids on Track focuses on:
* Increasing kindergarten readiness and literacy among preschool-age children 
* Engaging parents as partners in their child's development and well-being
* Expanding access to quality, affordable childcare for all families in Chemung and Steuben counties

Did you know that children who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school? Or that over the last decade, only 37 percent of third-graders in Chemung and Steuben counties were reading at grade level?

What happens when kids don’t get what they need in the early years? The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 88 percent of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in 3rd grade. Adults without a high school diploma earn less, are more likely to be unemployed, and are more likely to live in poverty.

The goal of the Southern Tier Kids on Track initiative is to ensure all children are reading at grade level by age 8, so they are set up for success in school, work and life. Providing young children with a healthy environment in which to learn and grow is good for their development and their success in school. High-quality early childhood programs also bring impressive returns on investment and benefit us all.

United Way of the Southern Tier has brought together the critical players and thinkers — schools, program providers, funders, businesses — all with the same purpose: to ensure kids have the best chance. The Southern Tier Kids on Track Council, a group of educators, child care professionals, human services professionals, business leader, and others, is the backbone of this effort at United Way.

Keeping Kids on Track

United Way of the Southern Tier and its partners are addressing some of the barriers to early childhood success by focusing on: 

School Readiness

Children start learning at birth. Research shows that more than 1 million new neural connections are developing in a child’s brain every second in the first few years of life. That’s why United Way of the Southern Tier works with partners, schools, child care providers, preschools and afterschool care providers to help children start school ready to succeed.


Early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life helps shape how their brain develops. For example, reading with young children, singing, and having reading material in the home is proven to boost pre-literacy skills. Children who aren’t reading proficiently by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

United Way of the Southern Tier wants all young children in Chemung or Steuben counties to have the tools to be successful in school and life. All children in our two counties are eligible to be registered to receive a free book each month by mail until the month they turn 5 years old. United Way of the Southern Tier is proud to partner with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library to provide this program. Registration information can be found here

VOLUNTEER: Join the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library volunteer team and help promote the program by tabling at community events, distributing bookmarks to places children and parents/caregivers are found, and more. United Way provides the materials and training. Time commitment varies. If you're interested in joining our team, please contact United Way of the Southern Tier by email ( or phone 607-377-5834.

Learn More 

Listen To A Podcast

Check Out Our Program Partners

  • United Way of the Southern Tier is proud to partner with local nonprofit agencies to offer programs to support children in our community. See the complete list of program partners here: 2023-2024 Program Partners

Other Resources

Steuben County — Resilient Children and Families 

Harvard University — Center on the Developing Child 

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading