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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.

Debe Morena is East Maricopa’s 2017 Champion for Young Children

Debe Morena

Debe Moreno has been selected as the 2017 East Maricopa First Things First 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.

Moreno engaged in awareness-raising efforts such as:

  • Creating collaborations within her community by offering storytimes, parent workshops, or to offer support to other early literacy programs to local Family Resource Centers and public housing sites.
  • Building awareness within the community about the importance of talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing with young children.
  • Creating early literacy programming in the library and helping train staff to be early literacy experts.
  • Organizing a Get Ready to Read Block Party and worked with all of the early literacy partners to create an Early Literacy Guide and hosted an Every Child Ready to Read parent workshop.

We recently caught up with Moreno, who is a Youth Service Supervisor at the Chandler Public Library.

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

Answer: I have worked at the Chandler Public Library since 1998 where I have met thousands of parents and caregivers who are trying to provide the best possible life for their young children. I believe that knowledge is power, so when we support parents by giving them the tools to understand their children’s developing brains we empower them to help their children succeed in school and in life.

Q: What caused you to get involved in efforts to increase public awareness in early childhood issues?

A: Public libraries provide access to information for everyone, so we see a wide range of community needs. Since all of our services are free and available to anyone, our customers represent every demographic in our community. What I have found is that everyone wants children to succeed, but not everyone knows how to make that happen. I became involved in efforts to increase public awareness in early childhood issues in order to help level the playing field. In the library, every parent has access to the same information and the same early childhood experts. It has been my goal to get that information and expertise to parents who don’t or can’t go to the library, giving them the same opportunities to help their children succeed. I believe it is the library’s responsibility to help every child get the early literacy support they need.

Q: Why do you feel building awareness in early childhood and developmental health is so important for families and communities?

A: I believe that Chandler has the potential to create an early literacy culture, which will benefit the entire community. I have been fortunate to be involved with Read On Chandler and the many early literacy providers and partners in our community. We have the support of our city, our school district, Read On Arizona, and First Things First and we also have collaboration between providers and departments. We have all of the tools we need to help our families and build a strong community that supports all of our children. When all of our children are succeeding in school, we will have built a strong community for the future.

Q: How have you seen awareness for the early years change in your community?

A: I have seen a great collaboration in our community in recent years between city departments, the school district, the libraries and other stakeholders. I believe we have a momentum around early literacy that I have never before seen in this community. I hope that we are getting the messages out to our families and that we will continue to do so.

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

A: We share literacy tips in all of our programs and we invite parents to share those messages with others in their families and their neighborhoods. I think, at the grassroots level, that is how we change communities. When businesses and community groups want to get involved, I suggest they support literacy initiatives with donations of money or time. We use many volunteers in the library and always appreciate donations to library programs.

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