Focus Area:

The Challenge

Children must learn to read so that they can read to learn. Yet, many families do not realize that language and literacy skills begin early, years before entering kindergarten.

How We Help

Children need daily access to high-quality picture books and a loving adult to share them with, and so Smart Start provides access to engaging children's books, with practical suggestions for parents, so that caregivers can share them in loving, everyday interactions that expand a child's understanding of the world.

Our Mission

We mobilize resources, forge partnerships, and support families to improve early childhood health, education and development, and ensure children are prepared for kindergarten.


All children in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed.

What We Do

  1. Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is recognized as a leader in the community regarding all issues related to children prenatal to five.
  2. We administer four internal programs and campaigns in addition to funding more than 20 other programs in the community that focus on early care and education, family support, health, and literacy.
  3. In order to effectively meet the mission of the organization, Smart Start must build the capacity to lead people and processes through a strong team of professionals. We do this by investing in the community, collaborating and convening with other experts, and driving innovation in the early childhood space.
  4. Smart Start of Mecklenburg County will invest over $35 million in early childhood programs throughout the community this year.

Our Work in the Community

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County aspires to fulfill its mandate and lead the way for the prenatal-5 community: ALL children should turn five ready to thrive!

Invest in the Early Childhood Community

Experiences a child has during the first 2,000 days--from birth to kindergarten--have been shown to have an impact throughout life. Therefore, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County invests time and money in local, evidence-based/evidence-informed initiatives to improve early care and education, family support, health, and literacy as a holistic approach for children birth-to-five.

Collaborate and Convene

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County serves as a hub for research and collaboration to improve lives of young children and their families. We organize and host platforms to share information, prompt discussion, and generate support and action to promote an aligned, comprehensive early childhood system. We also partner with other early childhood stakeholder organizations to provide advocacy and collaborative opportunities.

Drive Innovation

Smart Start was created in 1993 by Governor Jim Hunt as an innovative way to tackle an important problem: children were coming to school unprepared to learn. Today, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County both funds innovation externally as well as seeks to serve as an incubator of innovative ideas and practices for the birth-to-five space.


Smart Start is a nationally recognized early childhood education initiative to expand and improve services for children ages birth to five and their families.

Smart Start was established in 1993, under the leadership of then Governor Jim Hunt, as a state-wide, public/private partnership to help all North Carolina children enter school healthy and ready to succeed.

Local Smart Start partnerships, comprised of community members, fund programs within their own communities based on each county's particular needs and resources. Local partnerships operate in all 100 North Carolina counties through funding from the North Carolina legislature, corporations, foundations, and individual donors.

The Mecklenburg County Partnership for Children, better known as Smart Start of Mecklenburg County, is the local partnership organization serving children and families throughout Mecklenburg County.

Statewide oversight of all Smart Start programs is provided through The North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC).