The United Way of King County recently awarded $1.5 million to expand a program that helps low-income parents teach their toddlers using educational books and toys.

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About 1,000 low-income families in Seattle and King County were enrolled last year in a home-visiting program that helps parents prepare their toddlers for kindergarten.

Now, with a boost in funding from the city and county, the United Way of King County estimates its latest round of grants for the Parent-Child Home Program will boost the number of families served to about 1,300 this year and 1,400 next year.

Thirteen community-based organizations will split $1.5 million to expand the Parent-Child program, which pairs families with home-visitors who teach parents how to get the most educational value out of playing with and reading to their 2- and 3-year-olds. Several will focus on helping families who no longer can afford to live in Seattle and who lack stable housing, said Karen Howell-Clark, United Way’s senior director of education strategies.

The YWCA, for example, will recruit homeless families, Howell-Clark said, while El Centro de la Raza, which works with a lot of Spanish-speaking residents, will expand its Parent-Child program to southern parts of the county where its families are moving. Other agencies, Howell-Clark added, may work with local housing authorities.

As part of the program, home visitors spend 30 minutes twice a week with families, showing parents how to use a book or toy to build their children’s language and literacy skills.

A recent study of Parent-Child’s impact in King County found that participating children were more likely to be ready for kindergarten and have stronger English skills than other students in Washington. They also continue performing at a higher level in reading and math by the third grade, according to the study.

United Way also awarded $4.1 million to the nine local organizations that already offer Parent-Child to continue offering it this year. Five of those received additional money to expand as well, and eight new agencies will join the Parent-Child roster.

Parent-Child targets families that live in poverty, don’t speak English or are new to the U.S. The eight new agencies include the Congolese Integration Network, Iraqi Community Center of Washington and the West African Community Council.

“About 75 to 80 percent of the families we’ve served over the years are immigrant or refugee families, and that’s great. That’s a huge need,” Howell-Clark said.