YMCA of Southern Maine

For a Better Us.™

Early Learning Readiness

Started at the YMCA of Southern Maine in September of 2014, Early Learning Readiness (ELR) is a program that is designed to help close the gap that exists for children in underserved groups including New Americans, low income families, and caregivers and families that do not have access to a formal preschool setting and need support in meeting the needs of the children in their care. ELR provides a stimulating, preschool-like experience for children ages 0-5 and their caregivers, through learning centers that foster development and improve school readiness for the children, while supporting the skills and confidence of their caregivers. Free to all, we work closely with community partners to ensure that all children have the opportunity to start kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful, including Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0, SNAP-ED, Portland Children’s Museum, local libraries, and Southern Maine Community College. Last year we served 110 children in this program


When Elin started school this fall, she was prepared. Fortunately, Elin’s mother, Hilda, had help along the way. When Hilda’s sister told her about the importance of preschool education on a child’s future, she knew that she needed to give her daughter that opportunity. At just the right time, Youth Development Coordinator, Jenna Welch, told Hilda about the new Early Learning Readiness program being offered at the Pineland Branch and she decided to give it a try.

Hilda stopped working in 2013 when she and her husband adopted Elin from China in order to devote her time to her daughter. But as Hilda explained, “at home, even if you’re spending time with a child, it’s here and there. Early Learning Readiness allows you to spend two hours with your child… This gave her a change, for her to interact with other children and for me to meet other parents.”

ELR also gave Hilda tools to support Elin’s development on her own throughout the week. “You get all kinds of ideas that you don’t do at home and then you use it at home.” The Y “feels kind of like a second family in a way… There’s a lot of support.”

“We learned. I think it gets the child ready. She’s so much fore ready to go to school tomorrow if it wasn’t for that class we took.” More prepared, Elin is now more likely to see that success build as she continues through school.

  • The YMCA of Southern Maine’s ELR program served 134 people in 2015 (75 children and 59 caregivers)
  • A Nationwide Study found that there was a 68% increased proficiency in school readiness indicators for children who are part of ELR programs
  • 83% of program participants reported that ELR helped them to prepare their child in their care for school success (Nationwide Study)