A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New Fayette County Public Schools initiative encourages families to emphasize early learning

In an effort to support kindergarten readiness and improve the opportunities for young children to achieve success later in life, Fayette County Public Schools formally announced “First 5 Lex – Read, Talk and Play from Cradle to Kindergarten” at a news conference at the Family Care Center.

The First 5 Lex initiative gives families and caregivers access to information about early learning and connects them to fun, stimulating, age-appropriate activities and experiences that will support their young child’s development.

“Children’s early experiences, from birth to age 5, are critical to their brain development and lifelong learning,” said Alice Nelson, early childhood coordinator for FCPS. “The brain undergoes its most rapid development in the first three years of life, and 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5.”

First 5 Lex offers tools throughout the community such as:

• A book during 2-week-old check-ups in partnership with Reach Out and Read. New babies will receive “I Love You Like Sunshine,” emphasizing the importance of reading starting at infancy.

• Read to Me Libraries. To ensure children have access to books wherever they go, libraries will be placed in small businesses, family-service agencies, and other public areas such as community centers and laundromats.

• Activity centers at Kroger groceries. While families shop, they can use a First 5 Lex activity card to help guide them to read, talk, and play throughout the store.

• A First 5 Lex app. This free app for iPhone and Android devices allows families to find daily read, talk and play activities that cover a variety of school-readiness areas.

• Training for professionals. Training and materials provided through the FCPS Early Childhood Summit and made available through the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood’s Quality Improvement Grant will support childcare providers as they seek to read, talk, and play with preschoolers.

• Connections for families. Learning opportunities will empower families as they find out more about early childhood development. Two examples are the United Way Born Learning Academy and the FCPS Family University series.

• Communication campaign. A Lexington-wide campaign will ensure families are aware of the importance of engaging with their small children. The effort will include social media messages, public service announcements through network outlets and social media, signage, and materials for families in partnering agencies and businesses.

At the news conference Wednesday, FCPS Superintendent Manny Caulk and city Social Services Commissioner Chris Ford emphasized that community involvement is crucial.

“Early learning forms the foundation for all future learning, and the work of First 5 Lex is so important to the work we do in the classroom. We need to view early childhood education as a community effort,” Caulk said. “Less than half of the students who entered kindergarten in recent years met the state’s readiness benchmark. We need the help of our entire community to address the opportunity gaps that our children face before they ever walk through the doors of our schools so that every child has a pathway to success.”

Ford also noted that cities are ultimately stronger when their young people are prepared with a solid foundation.

“It is the goal of First 5 Lex to meet families where they are, and these activities will help create a caring and supportive environment,” Ford said. “We can help create a bright future for our children from cradle to kindergarten and beyond.”

The First 5 Lex program is made possible thanks to the financial and volunteer partnerships of community organizations including University of Kentucky, city Social Services, Community Action/Head Start, Reach Out and Read, UK Pediatrics, Lexington Public Library, KET, Child Care Council, United Way of the Bluegrass, PNC Bank, and Kroger.

“The goal is to communicate how crucial these early years are to building children’s brains, language, and vocabulary – all necessities for success in school and in life,” Nelson said. “Parent/caregiver interactions with a child from birth to 5 are the key, and what we need to do is simple and fun: Read, Talk and Play from Cradle to Kindergarten.”

First 5 Lex welcomes additional partners. To learn more, please contact Alice Nelson at (859) 381-4307 or (859) 312-3769.

First 5 Lex — Read, Talk and Play was developed by Fayette County Public Schools in partnership with early childhood professionals across the community in response to concerns about school readiness. The mission of First 5 Lex is to create a collaborative community to support the whole child and the family, from quality prenatal care through early childhood, resulting in a foundation for lifelong learning.

From Fayette County Public Schools

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