At the latest school board meeting, Paula Ledford and Nancy Cantrell sought the approval of board members for an Early Childhood Literacy Campaign that they wish to begin in this area.
Ledford and Cantrell presented research that indicates that 40% of children are not at the desired cognitive level when they reach kindergarten. Based on assessments created by a school board member in Washington state, student testing scores show that this trend is on the rise. This is why the Reading Foundation was created.
Ledford commented that if children begin school already behind in learning, then they will most likely remain behind throughout their educational careers. Therefore, according to Ledford, it is time to “catch the kids up before that learning gap gets worse.”
Ledford also explained that the first two or three years of a child's life are critical in the learning process and parents are the key. Parents that spend time reading to their children and working with them on their language, math and cognitive skills were farther ahead than those whose parent's did not.
Because parent involvement is essential to improving a child's learning before they reach kindergarten rather than trying to catch them up Ledford and Cantrell proposed that they begin a program to raise awareness to the parents of this growing problem. They agree that educating parents and training them on how to use tools that they have access to everyday. “Right now we are just in the planning stages of this campaign. But we are partnering with the PR department of Drake Enterprises to help spread the word any way we can, Ledford said. “The solution is real simple, make parents aware and get them actively working with their children; and this doesn't involve something that they don't already have access to.”
Here in Macon County the statistics are slightly better than the national average — only 17% are highly at risk and 36% are at some risk. There are already a few Pre-K programs in Macon County, such as the Reading Rover and More At Four. However, Ledford and Cantrell believe that there is more that can be done and that a goal of 80% of students reaching kindergarten prepared is very reasonable.
Although this program will not be using school board funding, members of the board heartily approved the plan and unanimously voted to continue with the project.