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27 percent of LaRue County preschoolers are 'kindergarten ready'

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By Linda Ireland

 A report released last week by the state says about one-fourth of LaRue County’s preschoolers are prepared to enter the next stage of their learning career: kindergarten.

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The data from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood provides teachers and families a snapshot of preschooler’s skills and their learning needs. The reports show skills that most children should learn between birth and age 5, such as following simple rules and routines, ability to focus, use sentences, playing and sharing with others, and learning to write and count.

Last year, 3-and-4-year-olds were screened in 109 school districts, including LaRue. They were tested in five areas: social/emotional, cognitive, general knowledge, language/communication, physical well-being and self-help. Both Hodgenville Elementary School and Abraham Lincoln Elementary participated. 

According to the 2013 Early Childhood Profile, 27 percent of 168 LaRue preschoolers screened in 2012 possessed the necessary skills to start their educational careers. It’s a bit under the state average of 28 percent.

LaRue’s preschoolers were above the state average in physical well-being such as eating balanced meals, getting enough rest and regular medical and dental care (58 percent local; 50 percent state) and self-help skills (79 percent local, 71 percent state). 

School enrollment is based on age, not on these indicators.

Results were broken into three categories: ready with supports (below readiness level), ready (ready for kindergarten) and ready with enrichments (above readiness level).

 “It could be said that 73 percent of preschoolers will be ready for kindergarten with supports,” said LaRue County’s Director of Family Services Sarah Hornback.

“What it means to be kindergarten ready has changed over the years and some parents may think that academics actually begin on the first day of kindergarten,” Hornback said. “This is certainly not the case.  The simple act of reading to a child from birth makes a huge difference in whether a child has the vocabulary and phonemic awareness (letter sounds, rhymes, print awareness) that helps them be ready to learn to read once they enter kindergarten.”

Educators “want parents and caregivers to make learning fun,” Hornback added. “We certainly don’t expect worksheets and drill and practice as kindergarten preparation for preschoolers but rich conversations, every day learning experiences, counting objects ... can be done in a playful and natural way to help our children be ‘ready.’”

The school system offers several programs for young children and are planning more in the future. 

Kindergarten Here I Come (KHIC) and Wee Time are weekly programs funded by family resource centers and United Way that families can participate in during the school year, Hornback said. 

“Childcare centers receive free training on kindergarten readiness and other high quality training through the Community Early Childhood Council. We also offer a free preschool program to qualifying children and Headstart is available in our community also. Early investment in children saves many tax dollars in the future as early intervention is often the key to academic and personal success for our children.” 

 Readiness screening becomes mandatory for all schools next year.

Terry Holliday, education commissioner for the state, said the results from the screening show that many students begin school at a disadvantage.

“It is critical that young children are exposed to high-quality learning environments and developmentally appropriate experiences at home and in early childhood education settings in kindergarten and throughout their school experience,” Holliday said in a press release.

The Early Childhood Profile was created in partnership with the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

 The 2013 Early Childhood Profiles can be accessed at http://kidsnow.ky.gov/School%20Readiness/Pages/profiles.aspx.