Early Literacy and Family Engagement

The Need 

Families need information on child development, child care and family supports as early as the prenatal period. In focus groups and surveys, parents have told the CDEC that they want to receive this information through trusted community sources, such as health care providers and libraries. 

The Strategy

This activity supports the development of content to distribute to parents of young children in health care settings and through text-based communications platforms. This activity also funds the distribution of materials to deliver to families in these trusted settings, helping more families access needed early childhood resources. 

The following programs were funded to support early literacy and family engagement through these American Rescue Plan Stabilization Funds. 

  • Imagination Library Colorado 
  • Bright by Text 
  • Reach Out and Read Colorado 
  • Black Mama’s Circle 
  • Family Connects - Illuminate Colorado 

Key Outcomes and Learnings 


See below for this activity's impact by each implementation partner. 

This activity: 

Increased family engagement and child development through a variety of early literacy activities. 

Expanded awareness about child development through access to valuable resources, quality child care and family supports through a trusted CDEC access point. 

Supported programs that work to enhance family engagement, support family stability, increase school readiness and early literacy in children and connect families to valuable resources. 


Through these activities, we have partner sites in all 64 counties that distribute early literacy and child development resources through child well checks, postpartum connection groups, home visitation programming, text-based platforms and postal service. These no-cost family engagement literacy resources support child and caregiver connections that lead to whole-person health and well-being.

plum-colored gear graphic with the words family strengthening


Amount: $879,135


  • American Rescue Plan Discretionary

Expiration: June 30, 2024

Next Steps

CDEC is currently working with programs to increase resources in languages other than English.


Evidence Brief

"Early Literacy: Imagination Library of Colorado" 

Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab 

(September 2023)


Expanded Program Impact

logo for dolly parton's imagination library

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Colorado

Imagination Library Colorado (ILCO) is a membership-based program, where each child from birth to years old will receive 12 brand-new, developmentally-appropriate books by mail at no charge to the family. Families also receive access to valuable and trusted CDEC resources, including information on child development, quality child care and family supports. 

This is a national model with state affiliates. The goal is to have full 64-county participation. 61 out of Colorado’s 64 counties are currently open and enrolling children, as of February 2024. 

Books mailed by the numbers: 

  • Since ILCO began in November 2021, a total of 1,048,832 books have been mailed (as of February 2024). 
  • 666,508 books were mailed, including 106,641 with Spanish/English content. 
  • 134,242 books have been mailed in 2024, as of February 2024, including 21,478 with Spanish/English content. The February mailing reached 1,029 graduates and 2,577 new enrollees. 
  • As of February 2024, over 21% of eligible children are receiving Imagination Library books each month 
  • On February 27, 2024, Gov. Jared Polis handed out the one millionth Imagination Library book in Colorado! 

On February 27, 2024, Governor Jared Polis signed HB24-1205 which will require the Department of Early Childhood to oversee the Colorado Imagination Library program, previously overseen by the Colorado Department of Education.

bright by text logo

Bright By Text

Bright by Text (BBT) is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of caregivers and children alike. This bilingual, no-cost text program accompanies caregivers from the prenatal stage through their child's ninth birthday, delivering valuable developmental guidance, literacy activities, and fostering parental resilience through 1-2 weekly text messages. Bright by Text also connects caregivers with local events and resources, promoting essential services such as vaccination events, food distributions, library story times, and parenting classes. This collaborative effort not only nurtures child development but also supports caregivers in their vital role, illustrating the power of community partnerships in empowering families. 

In response to family and child care provider surveys, the following behaviors have been reported: 

  • Competence: 95% of caregivers indicated that BBT prompted them to try a learning activity, play with their child, read stories, work on math/science skills 
  • Confidence: 87% of caregivers indicated that BBT has made them more knowledgeable about their child's development. 
  • Connection: 68% of caregivers indicated that BBT has strengthened their bond with their child(ren). 
  • Connection: 56% increase in caregivers indicating that they are more aware of available resources in their community. 

Findings from the BBT Evaluation Report show:

  • Finding 1: Bright by Text supports high-risk families 
  • Finding 2: Bright by Text is an accessible and valued resource for caregivers. 
  • Finding 3: Bright by Text children’s language development is more on-target or advanced 
  • Finding 4: Bright by Text supports parent-child interactions

reach out and read colorado logo

Reach Out and Read Colorado

Reach Out and Read Colorado (RORCO) is an early literacy nonprofit that gives young children the foundation for success. By building on the unique relationship between families and pediatric clinicians, Reach Out and Read Colorado provides over 300,000 new books to children each year, along with guidance around the importance of reading aloud to parents and caregivers, to promote early literacy skills and healthy caregiver/child bonds so children enter school prepared for success.

As of December 31, 2023, a total of 60,482 new developmentally and linguistically appropriate books have been delivered to clinics to encourage families to read aloud together through CDEC’s support. These specific books include stickers with a QR code directing parents to CDEC resources. This partnership has been implemented in 124 clinics in 30 Colorado counties and includes books and parent resources pertaining to literacy and early relational health in English, Spanish, and Arabic.

Logo for University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Black Mama's Circle

Black Mama's Circle is a peer-to-peer support group where Black mothers connect, learn and increase well-being through shared experiences from prenatal to postpartum. 

This program works to: 

  • Build upon the Black Mamas Circle peer support program facilitated by a race-concordant licensed provider along with a race-concordant peer mentor. 
  • Provide participants the opportunity to receive training to become peer mentors. 
  • Offer care coordination, support and warm handoff if participants request additional mental health support. 
  • Increase focus on outreach and retaining program members. For example, building on a collaboration with Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation & Access Program (CoPPCAP.org) to get the word out via their enrolled pediatric practices. 
  • Offer a monthly peer reflective consultation group for BIPOC professionals serving Black women and their families in the perinatal period. 
  • Give participants access to various early childhood supports, including access to information on child development and quality child care through a trusted CDEC access point. 

This program was recently featured in the University of Colorado News: "Improving the lives of Black mothers and their children: Psychiatrist cultivates grassroots, community-based approach to care to address racial health disparities"

logo for family connects

Family Connects - Illuminate Colorado

Family Connects is an established, evidence-based program that connects parents of newborns to the community resources they need through postpartum nurse home visits. A registered nurse visits the home around three weeks after birth to check on the parent, baby, and the whole family. There is no additional cost to the family, and anyone with a newborn can participate, including foster, adoptive, kinship, immigrant and refugee parents. 

This program addresses Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) in the Postpartum period

A randomized controlled trial took place in 2014. Results from this trial have shown: 

  • Families had 44% lower rates of Child Protective Services investigations for suspected child abuse or neglect through child age 2.
  • 39% lower investigation rates through child age 5.
  • Community connections increased by 13%. 
  • Mothers were 30% less likely to experience postpartum depression or anxiety. 
  • Families were more likely to use out-of-home child care. 
  • As the number of birth risks increased, infants experienced fewer emergency department visits but more hospital overnights. 
  • Mothers were more likely to complete their six-week postpartum health check, but also had more emergency department visits. 

As of July 2023, a total of 396 families have been reached by Family Connects Colorado, 297 families scheduled at least one Family Connects home visit, and 244 families completed a Family Connects visit, nearly doubling their original goal of reaching 200 families by the end of the fiscal year. Books are currently being developed in three languages. 

Family Connects is recently celebrating the completion of the electronic version of Bringing Home Baby, a leave-behind guide meant to help support families in the first few months after a baby is born. This resource is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Vietnamese.