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With the assistance of a newly appointed project director and a federal grant, the New Haven School Readiness Council has begun implementing its early childcare initiative.

The School Readiness Council and United Way for Greater New Haven have named Christopher Rector the project director for the New Haven Early Learning Success Project, a program meant to improve education for young children in the area. The project, made possible by a $797,000 federal grant awarded to the council in November, will revive the Read-Mobile, a vehicular library, and allow for the expansion of existing initiatives, including Read to Grow’s “Books for Babies” program, which primarily serves parents of newborns, New Haven Director of Public Information Derek Slap said.

Slap said he thinks Rector’s hiring will help to achieve the project’s aim of improving infant literacy.

“He was hired because he has experience with kids and working with the community, and he has a lot of energy and excitement,” he said.

Rector, who has worked in youth programs in San Francisco, Calif. and Richmond, Va., currently serves as the director of social services at the Hall Neighborhood House in Bridgeport, Conn. He received his Master’s degree in social welfare in 2003 from the University of California, Berkeley.

The United Way for a Greater New Haven is responsible for the handling of the project’s finances, and the project is run by the New Haven School Readiness Council, said Sarah McNeely, program coordinator for the “Success by 6″ program at the United Way for a Greater New Haven.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he thinks many New Haven children start to fall behind as early as kindergarten, but he said he expects the new measures to improve early education.

“In New Haven, we have found that by introducing children early to preschool concepts, we have increased the percentage of children coming to kindergarten ready to learn,” DeStefano said.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who represents New Haven, said she thinks good public education is vital to a community’s welfare. She said she expects the new project to have a large positive impact on the city.

“At a time when there exists an overwhelming need in our country for quality, affordable early-childhood education, we all understand how important the council is to this community and the impact New Haven’s Early Learning Success Project will have on this community,” DeLauro said. “With this funding, New Haven children will be at a significant advantage with their education.”

Slap said the grant will fund the project for the next 17 months. He said city officials are considering different funding options available to them after the federal grant expires in 2007, but he said he does not think that there is cause for worry.

“It’s a continual process of trying to secure funding and keeping it coming,” Slap said.

McNeely said the city has the option of reapplying for a further federal grant after the 17 months. She said she hopes the project will gain prominence in the community and encourage corporate funding for early education.

“The intention of a lot of these initiatives is to get … visibility and from there encourage [companies] to support the program,” she said.

Rector will assume his new duties Monday.

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