More Kids Closer to Kindergarten-Ready
GEORGETOWN – Kentucky is getting another boost to early childhood education. Today, Toyota, with United Way and the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, unveiled plans to expand the United Way Born Learning Academies, adding 63 schools to the kindergarten readiness program’s growing lineup.
The program kicked off in 2012 with a $1 million grant from the automaker, and was later strengthened with an additional $1.2 million investment by the state via its Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge federal grant. As a result, beginning this fall a total of 161 academies will offer learning resources to parents and caregivers of pre-K children throughout the Commonwealth.
Today, an estimated 50% of Kentucky’s children are not prepared for kindergarten, according to the Kentucky Department of Education. Taking aim at this deficiency, United Way Born Learning academies are designed to help parents and caregivers improve their children’s kindergarten readiness with free monthly workshops hosted at local schools. Through hands-on activities, parents and caregivers of children under five years old are trained to turn everyday moments into practical learning opportunities.
When Kimberly Young, principal of Frankfort’s Westridge Elementary and mother to a two-year-old, participated in the program at her school, she picked up new ways to create learning moments in every day places like the car or the grocery store.
But that wasn’t the only benefit to the six-month program. “Parents and children form strong connections within the school community through Born Learning,” Young said. “Not only do they forge parent-to-parent support systems, but they also get to know our teachers and staff well before their child enters kindergarten.”
Born Learning Academies are made possible with support from both private and public partners.
Toyota launched the program in 2012 with a five-year commitment of financial support totaling $1 million. In 2014, the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood matched Toyota’s grant and some, with the goal of opening 150 new academies over a four year period. In addition to the program’s major supporters, Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSC), a division of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, serve as an integral program partner, providing teaching staff support for every academy across the state.
“We are pleased to partner with Toyota and the state, as well as communities across Kentucky to expand this important program,” said Kevin Middleton, president of United Way of Kentucky. “Parents are their child’s first teacher and we know this program is helping give young children a sturdy foundation before they start school.”
Money Well Spent
Investing in quality early childhood education offers substantial benefits. In fact, according to economist James Heckman with the University of Chicago, every $1 spent on early childhood education carries a 7-10% return on investment.
According to the Prichard Committee, children who attend high-quality preschool are more likely to be employed and have higher earnings as adults.