by ALLISON CRAWFORD –
Eight western Kentucky elementary schools are among 63 schools across the state receiving funding for kindergarten readiness programs. United Way Born Learning Academies will be available at schools in McCracken, McLean, Christian, Daviess, Graves, Union, and Webster counties this fall.
The program began in 2012 with a $1 million grant from Toyota and later expanded with a state matching grant. The program provides free classes once a month during the school year for parents and kids.
Paducah’s Clark Elementary School Family Resource Coordinator Robyn West says the classes are meant to prepare kids but it’s the parents who learn the most.
“The parents have a much better idea of what their child needs to be learning or exposed to before they start kindergarten,” West said. “Even things like reading books to your kid every night.”
West says this will be Clark Elementary’s second year providing the program. She says 12 families graduated from the academy last year.
Hickman County Schools Family Resource and Youth Services Center Coordinator Vickie Batts says this is also her school’s second year with the program. She says the eight families that participated in last year’s Born Learning workshops found them helpful.
“Our parents are their child’s first teachers, so we feel like this program helps the parents be aware and understand their role in using simple everyday moments to help their child learn. So when they start kindergarten, some of those basic skills they’re already going to have mastered,” Batts said.
Batts and West hope more families participate in their academies this year as word spreads about the program. Batts says it’s unclear whether her school will receive more funding for the program but says she anticipates Hickman County Elementary School maintaining the academy with support from the local community. West said Clark Elementary’s program is already supplemented with donations from the McCracken County Early Childhood Council, the local United Way, and some of the Family Resource Center’s other grants.
Only about 50 percent of Kentucky kindergarteners were ready to start school last fall according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
Western Kentucky schools beginning the United Way Born Learning Academies in 2016:
- Pembroke Elementary – Christian County
- Deer Park Elementary – Daviess County
- Farminton Elementary – Graves
- Morgan Elementary – McCracken
- Calhoun Elementary – McLean
- Morganfield Elementary – Union
- Clay Elementary – Webster
- Sebree Elementary – Webster