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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.

Former preemies get strong start at Quality First center in Kingman

parents-reading-to-kidsAvery and Ariya Espinosa were born 10 weeks premature, each weighing less than four pounds. They spent their first six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit in Phoenix. When parents Frank and Torri Espinosa finally brought them home to Kingman, they knew they needed to find child care that would help the girls not fall behind on literacy and language skills.

Luckily, the Espinosas’ received Quality First scholarships for the Gingerbread House, a child care center, where the family was confident that the twins would get the engagement they needed. The center is enrolled in Quality First, a signature program of First Things First, which partners with child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning across Arizona.

By 18 months old, the time when educators say gaps in language begin to appear, the Espinosas noticed the girls catching up to their peers. By age 2, they were right in the middle of the pack.

Torri credits their success to the care they received from a consistent team of quality teachers. To support learning at home, the teachers gave the parents strategies to use, such as asking specific questions to engage the girls about what they learned that day.

Avery and Ariya turned age 5 in August and started kindergarten feeling confident to start school. “To see how far they’ve come,” Frank said. “The last five years have been a blur. I don’t know what we would have done if we were on our own.”

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