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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Sharyn Weinheimer is the 2020 East Maricopa Region Champion

Sharyn Weinheimer

Sharyn Weinheimer has been selected as the 2020 First Things First East Maricopa Regional Champion for Young Children.

The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues.

Weinheimer, who is a multi-tiered systems of support coordinator for the Kyrene Elementary School District, uses FTF’s early literacy information in the district office lobby to engage visitors ranging from school board members to staff to parents about the importance of early childhood.

Weinheimer also used FTF’s early childhood information during her interactive workshops about dialogic reading, where the adult engages the child in the storytelling. Weinheimer was the subject of a Tempe Wrangler newspaper article, titled, “Best start toward lifetime literacy: Read to kids while they’re young,” where she spoke about the district’s partnership with FTF and the importance of early literacy.

We recently caught up with Weinheimer, who is also a National Board Certified Teacher.

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important?

Answer: I feel strongly about setting up children for success by making sure early childhood development and health are the focus.  When, I found out I was pregnant with my first child I knew I wanted to be the best mother I could be, so I began reading parenting books.  The commonalities that came up were to read to your child, sing, talk and play with them.  It seemed obvious, but when I met other new moms they thought their children were too young to be read to.  I love reading and talking with my children.  My seven-year-old yesterday said, “Wow, mom you really do like learning!”  My son asked, “Why is two weeks called a fortnight?”  I had no idea, so we Googled and discussed the meaning.  By starting at an early age with reading, talking, and singing, it has become an expectation in our home.  When I became a parent I realized all parents want what is best for their children, they sometimes don’t know how to provide it.  My mission is to share with families the importance of reading, talking and singing with your child can set them up for a life of success. This is why I’ve been presenting to families on the research of early childhood development, focused on reading.  Each family is able to go home with a book of their choice to continue reading at home.  “Reading, rhyming, singing, and talking — beginning from birth — profoundly influence literacy and language development, the foundations for all other learning.” (www.healthychildren.org)

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?

Answer: Other people in our community can get involved by hosting early childhood events, share the message of reading for a minimum of 20 minutes a day is very important, provide a way to share or donate books to families in need. 

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