Lark Kesterke
Director of Impact & Investments

Education Initiative

United Way of Snohomish County: Tulalip Babies

With approximately 745,000 residents in 2013, Snohomish County has the third highest population of counties in Washington. The U.S. Census reports that in Snohomish County, 11.3% of the population (84,288 individuals) lives under the federal poverty Level, and that number jumps to 12.9% for families with children. In fact, 15.6% of children age 17 and under live in poverty in our county.

Research from University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences shows that the first five years of life have a significant impact on children's educational outcomes. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported only 52.1% of third grade children are reading at proficiency in Snohomish county. This percentage changes even more for children living in poverty. Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count reports up to 80% of children living in poverty are reading below proficiency.

Collaboration and communication between school districts, community child cares/preschools and families on developmentally appropriate practices, environments and curriculum will lead to improved child outcomes. 

Building a comprehensive early learning (birth-3rd grade) system is necessary to improve outcomes for children. That’s the goal of our Education Initiative. We do this by supporting parents,caregivers and school districts, improving access to services and educating lawmakers about the importance of early childhood education.

United Way’s Education Initiative is working to:

  • Increase partnership between school district staff and neighborhood Pre-K providers
  • Increase the number of smooth transitions from Pre-K to kindergarten through the use of transition report tools
  • Increase understanding of system gaps needed to ensure cohesive P-3 alignment long-term
  • Increase P-3 alignment efforts countywide          
  • Increase WaKIDS results at partnering school districts  
  • Increase access to summer learning programs in communities with high levels of households experiencing poverty


Announcement: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

United Way of Snohomish County closed our Dolly Parton Imagination Library on December 1, 2015. While we are saddened to end this work, we celebrate that more than 2,400 children engaged in early literacy since the program’s inception in 2011. We hope that families will continue to encourage their child’s interest in reading and learning. 

Thankfully, our community is blessed with an amazing library system, Sno-Isle Libraries, which consistently provides high-quality books, workshops and resources to families for increasing early literacy skills. We invite you to check out your local library and expand your child’s potential by getting them their own library card.   For information on locations, hours and upcoming story times, please visit

We are honored to have been a part of family story time for the past 5 years. 

We’re also pleased to share that management of the program has transitioned to other, local organizations in the Granite Falls and Lake Stevens communities. See below for community-specific information. You can also learn more about the Imagination Library program at

Granite Falls Community:
Management has transitioned to Lutheran Community Services NW – Lake Stevens Family Center.
Questions? Please contact Crisann Brooks at

Lake Stevens Community:
Management of the program has transitioned to the Lake Stevens Education Foundation.
Questions? Contact Leslie Elsemore at

Marysville/Tulalip Communities:
We regret to inform you that the Marysville Imagination Library program closed on Dec. 1, 2015 due to lack of sustainable funding. As of Dec. 1, participating Marysville/Tulalip families will no longer receive books monthly.

Mission: Leading positive change that transforms our community and improves people’s lives in Snohomish County

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