At Lexington’s Family Care Center on Wednesday, Kaylah Rodriguez read her 5-month-old son Shannon Alexander Washington III the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” from a small library that’s part of a new city-wide effort to give children under 5 more learning opportunities.
Most everyone in Lexington can have an impact on getting children ready for kindergarten, Fayette County Public Schools and city officials said at a news conference announcing “First 5 Lex – Read, Talk and Play from Cradle to Kindergarten.”
As part of the initiative, owners of small businesses such as barber shops, salons, laundromats and agencies serving families with preschool children can volunteer to offer the ‘Read to Me’ libraries. Also, activity cards with opportunities to Read-Talk-Play with children are already at Lexington’s Richmond Road Kroger in a pilot that will soon expand to other Kroger locations. In addition, some pediatricians are giving the book “I Love You Like Sunshine” to parents at their infants’ two-week checkups. And anyone can donate $3.33 or more to purchase books for the First 5 Lex program.
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“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,” said Alice Nelson, who manages the program as the school district’s family and community early childhood coordinator.
“Less than half of the students who entered kindergarten in recent years met the state’s readiness benchmark,” Superintendent Manny Caulk said. “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.”
At the Family Care Center, where the first “Read to Me” library will be located , Kaylah and her son are in a program aimed at mothers, who as part of a partnership with Fayette County schools, are working to get their high school diploma.
Kaylah, 17, said she will look for the First 5 Lex books when she takes her son to Lexington businesses: “It helps the kids learn their colors. Some of them help them count and it just helps them with their ability to read.”
Brittany Sutton, 19, also in the Family Care Center program, said her 2-year-old son Jayden Taylor enjoyed the Read-Talk-Play activity card at Kroger a few weeks ago.
“He loved it,” Sutton said, “ It kept him very entertained so it was nice for me.”
In addition to Kroger, the First 5 Lex program has several partners including the 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 and PNC Bank.
The First 5 Lex effort also has a free app, which is available on iPhone and Android devices and suggests daily activities. Groups are also offering training to early childhood teachers, caregivers and families as part of First 5 Lex.
For more information
On Facebook: @First5Lex!. Download the First 5 Lex app or online, go to First5Lex.com