A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Breaking down the Big Picture of Education: Focus on early literacy to set a child on the right course

Northern Kentucky Education Council

Education is vital to the success of our region, our residents and our workforce. The following is the second in a series of articles on the importance of education in Northern Kentucky. The series is produced by the Advancing the Big Picture Coalition of the Northern Kentucky Education Council. Each article will focus on a particular aspect of education, will provide data and information from the community and its leaders and will end with a call to action.

As a Northern Kentucky community, we are working to increase the number of children entering Kindergarten “ready.”

One to One coaches are trained and paired with 1st-3rd grade students who are struggling to read.

We know that the ability to read does not happen naturally. In fact, a family’s efforts to teach young children to speak, understand and comprehend language are essential experiences needed to prepare children before they even enter school. Modern brain imaging confirms and expands the importance of broad exposure to language and reading for children birth to age five.

Why is it important to start immediately when a child is born?

The brain constantly changes as a child develops and grows. Neuroscience research confirms that the majority of the physical development of the brain after a baby is born occurs before age five.

As a result, books in the home and early literacy experiences have a significant impact on each child’s potential success. Logan, Justice, and Chaparro-Moreno (2019) indicate in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, over the five years before kindergarten entry, researchers estimate that children from literacy-rich homes hear a cumulative 1.4 million more words during storybook reading than children who are never read to.

As a child’s first teachers, the family plays a critical role in the child’s development. When families spend sufficient time speaking directly to their baby and interacting with the child and their environment, the family is helping their child to use visual and auditory cues to connect sound and meaning with language.

Parents that spend time reading aloud to and with their children help their child build a broad vocabulary and strong reading skills along with warm emotional connections to reading itself. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all children. Research indicates that if a child is not reading independently by the 3rd grade, chances of future academic success can be significantly diminished. Our most recent data for Northern KY indicate that only 53% of children in 3rd grade demonstrate at or above grade level reading.

Community members help students develop literacy skills and support their success through variety of volunteer programs and initiatives

A Parent’s TestimonialParents and children who read together daily can create more loving relationships with each other while building a strong curiosity for learning.

Kendall Huff reads with his four-year-old daughter Arianna “all the time.” Huff, a Systems Analyst and IT Manager for the City of Covington, sees regular reading with his daughter as fundamental.

“You need it for everything else you do in life. I actually help her with learning a word when I break it down, sound it out, and help her learn to spell it. It helps her with her imagination because she can put words with what she is drawing or feeling. Reading really is fundamental.”

Call to Action – How You Can Help

Dayton Superintendent Jay Brewer regularly sees the impact reading proficiency has for children in school.

“Reading is often the make or break skill for students. An inspired individual who can read can do just about anything. It is imperative the foundation and essentials of reading start at birth. Reading with and to kids needs to be a must in a parent’s life, not simply a should.”

The great news is that families and caregivers do have many free early childhood resources available through local programs and community resources.

• Public Libraries offer fun programming, advice, and resources for families. If transportation is a problem, some libraries even offer home delivery service. Both at libraries and through mobile events, librarians provide extensive and wonderful materials.

Parents who spend time reading aloud to their children help them build a broad vocabulary and strong reading skills..

• One to One Reading is a collaborative effort in Northern Kentucky to improve student achievement in reading for children in first through third grade. One to One provides a dedicated group of volunteer coaches to schools to help students achieve. One to One Coaches meet once a week with the same child to help them develop confidence in their reading skills. Learn more and sign up for One to One Trainings here.

• Read Ready Covington is an early literacy initiative sponsored by the City of Covington in partnership with Covington’s schools, early learning and childcare centers, Kenton County Public Library, the Housing Authority and Housing Consortium, NKY Health Department, social service agencies and businesses. The goals for Read Ready Covington are to increase Kindergarten readiness and 3rd-grade reading proficiency throughout Covington. Residents of Covington have free electronic learning resources and public literacy experiences available to them here.

• My Pre-K is a United Way Success By 6 early childhood public awareness campaign that provides a message about the importance of learning experiences for children before kindergarten. An example is Born Learning Academies, which offer early literacy strategies, resources and information about child social and emotional development. Families also have the opportunity to meet other parents and professionals in their communities. Learn more here.

• Little Free Libraries are small, sponsored book boxes found throughout the region that invite people to “Take a book, leave a book.” Contact the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati to locate an existing Little Free Library or apply for a limited number of available kits to host a Little Free Library in your community. Click here to learn more.

Community leaders and residents, we have the resources, we know the research and the outcomes of quality early learning experiences. With intentional effort, we can increase the number of children arriving to Kindergarten ready to fully participate and succeed.

Every child can be successful with your time and commitment to help.

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