Recent News / Blog

ELC Board of Directors Appoints Suzan Gage as Executive Director

There is big news coming out of Northwest Florida as our Board of Directors has appointed a new Executive Director for the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida. Suzan Gage assumed responsibilities on May 9th, 2018, and has succeeded Lynne Eldridge who recently retired as Executive Director of the Coalition. More information about Suzan, and her tenure with the coalition can be found in the press release linked below. If you would like any additional information about this transition, please email

Click Here to read the press release

Children’s Book Author Joins Local Rotarian for a Special Visit at PCB Academy

Local children’s book author Carol “Boots” Hensel visited PCB Academy in Panama City, Fla., during a special visit on Wednesday, February 21. Boots read her story “Johari’s Joy” to children while dressed in pig pajamas, and there were guest appearances from her book’s stars – Johari and Joy.

Boots is a friend of Rotarian Bob Britson, a local engineer and a volunteer with the Rotary Read Aloud program. Rotary Read Aloud is an initiative between the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida and the Rotary Club of Panama City. The program started in 2007, and has grown from a partnership with 4 School Readiness contracted providers to 22.

Each month, Rotarians visit participating Rotary Read Aloud sites in Bay County to read to children. Books and puppets are left with teachers as a gift to the program. Additionally, books are donated through the generous funding of the Rotary Club of Panama City to encourage reading and family engagement in the home. Parents complete pre- and post-Home Literacy Environment Checklists to monitor changes in behavior from the beginning to the end of the program. Parents and teachers also complete comment cards on books provided by the Early Learning Coalition. Books are selected based on the “Mind in the Making” series of activity sheets with tips to promote life skills.

During the 2016/2017 school year, Rotarians spent over 56 hours preparing for and/or reading in School Readiness contracted programs. Since its inception, thousands of books have been sent home for families to read with children. Based on feedback data from parents and teachers, parents have become more engaged and have increased the time spent reading to their children. Parents are visiting the library more, and they are adding books to their home library. Screen time for children has decreased for children involved with Rotary Read Aloud.

Rotary Read Aloud is credited to the late Julian Bennett (former Panama City Rotarian) and his long-time friend, former ELC of NW Florida Executive Director Lynne Eldridge. They wanted a program that helped increase literacy in early learners, engaged families more, and they wanted the data to support a change in behavior. Since 2007, the lives of thousands of children and families have been positively affected by Rotary Read Aloud.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is proud to partner with the Rotary Club of Panama City to “cause an revolution of positive impact to so many in our community,” as quoted by Julian’s son, Panama City Rotarian and Rotary Read Aloud Reader Derrick Bennett. To learn more about Rotary Read Aloud, visit

More about the Author: Carol “Boots” Hensel has written two books, “Johari’s Joy” and “The Zoopendous Surprise.” She is a resident of Panama City, Fla., where she lives with her husband. To learn more about Boots or to schedule an appearance, visit

News Coverage on WMBB-TV: “Rotary Promotes Reading”

ELC of NW Florida Awarded Best Group Piece for Children’s Week 2018 #GiveUsAHand Contest

The ELC of NW Florida was awarded “Best Group Piece” for their submission of hand art to the 2018 Children’s Week “Hanging of the Hands” exhibition in the Florida State Capitol. There were three awards presented for “Best Individual Hand Art,” “Most Creative,” and “Best Group Piece.” The Coalition was applauded by Children’s Week for their collaboration with the libraries throughout Northwest Florida, including participation from Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, and Washington County public libraries.

We are grateful for the partnership among Northwest Florida libraries, child care programs, and our newly-included friends at the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle.

To view the original post on the Children’s Week Facebook page, visit


ELC of NW Florida Hosts First Annual Early Learning Scholastic Book Fair

The ELC of NW Florida will host an Early Learning Scholastic Book Fair from November 6-9 in their Panama City Coalition Office (703 W. 15th Street). On Thursday, November 9, the Coalition will host a Family Night from 5-7 p.m. Families and teachers of preschool children are invited to attend. Light snacks will be served, and craft stations will be available for children of all ages.

ELC of NW Florida Accepts $4,360 Donation From Dunkin’ Donuts

Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Received $4,360 Donation from Dunkin’ Donuts!

Click here to link to the Washington County News/Holmes County Advertiser article: “Dunkin’ Donuts donates to ELC”

Click here to link to Aston Williams report on WMBB-TV: “Dunkin’ Donuts Loves the Children”

Click here to link to the story share on the Purple Square Management Group page. Purple Square manages these popular national brands: Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins, The Brass Tap, and Popeyes.  “Dunkin’ Donuts Loves the Children”

Click here to link the story appearing in Foster Folly News from Washington County: “Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida received $4,360 donation from Dunkin’ Donuts”

Click here to link to the September 21 news release!

“Little Listeners” Program Launch

“little listeners” is a program launched through the Alignment Bay County Early Learning committee on which  the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida serves. Patients of Coastal OB/GYN will have the opportunity to take part in this program that encourages pregnant moms to read to their unborn children. Books and information will be provided through the private donation of Dr. Merritt and his family.

Click below to learn more!

New Program Encourages Pregnant Women to Read to Their Babies,” WMBB-TV