By Ashley Brandt | Senior Manager, Early Care and Education | Metro United Way
Nearly 50% of children in Jefferson County enter kindergarten unprepared to learn. Why does this matter? Isn’t kindergarten only the beginning of a child’s academic career? Don’t kindergarteners have plenty of time to learn and catch up with their peers? Unfortunately, they do not. Overwhelming evidence shows that children who enter kindergarten behind their peers most often remain behind throughout their entire educational careers and beyond.
Consider these statistics:
- When a child enters kindergarten ready for school, they have an 82% chance of mastering basic skills by age 11. However, a child who enters kindergarten unprepared has only a 45% chance of mastering those same basic skills by age 11.
- Children who do not recognize the letters of the alphabet when they enter kindergarten demonstrate significantly lower reading skills at the end of first grade, and 88% of children who read poorly in first grade continue reading under grade level in third grade. Looking even further ahead, 74% of children reading below grade level in third grade will still struggle with reading when they start high school.
Kindergarten readiness matters and its effects are lasting. Metro United Way is confronted regularly with the reality that too many children in our community are not afforded the opportunities needed to become kindergarten ready. We also know that one organization cannot overcome this significant barrier alone. That is why we are proud to serve as the backbone for the Ready for K Alliance.
The Ready for K Alliance is an initiative of more than 100 community partners united in the vision that all children enter kindergarten ready to thrive and dedicated to the work of dramatically improving kindergarten readiness. The Alliance identifies what strategies are improving outcomes for children in our community and works to highlight and scale those strategies.
While our community is making progress and impactful efforts are underway, the data shows it is not enough. Every year in Jefferson County we are still sending nearly half of our children to kindergarten without the skills and experiences they need to succeed. We as a community must do more.
A child’s learning and development begins long before kindergarten. The Ready for K Alliance focuses on the critical milestones children reach between birth and 5 years old. Helping children reach those milestones is a collective effort. Families and caregivers, health care providers, cultural and enrichment institutions, childcare providers, community organizations, government, non-profits, schools, and businesses all have a role to play.
Building greater community awareness of the importance of kindergarten readiness and the roles that every individual and organization can play in improving children’s outcomes are key first steps. Together, we must be willing to raise up the success of our children as a priority and recognize that families and schools alone cannot ensure every opportunity needed for readiness. It is up to all of us.
Metro United Way is asking our community to make Jefferson County a leader in early childhood success. We encourage all members of the Louisville community to join the Ready for K Alliance in advocating for and working toward the success of our youngest children as they shape their future and the future of our community.