East Kentucky's future well-being begins with facing the challenge of educating each child from birth through career readiness for the work force.
I have observed and participated in the educational landscape in my county for 40 years. I know more now than I did when I raised my children. Brain science has documented that from birth to age five a child has the capacity to learn more rapidly than at any other time in life.
In order to realize the full potential of every child born in Appalachia, we need to invest in the type of quality pre-school services that maximize the development of language skills that are the building blocks for all future education.
These services will provide an opportunity to identify a child's unique style and any learning differences that require intervention. Teachers can be alerted to the need for specialized teaching strategies before a child and his teachers become discouraged. Currently more than 20 percent of all school children bear the label of struggling learners. Many children in my community have dyslexic characteristics. There are effective strategies to reach these children if we choose to adequately fund and employ them.
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A child's first learning experience begins in the family setting. In the last 10 years, families of my community have suffered as drug addiction has sent many parents to jail and to rehabilitation programs.
Consistent parenting is often absent and adults are unavailable. When these children enter the classroom, many need mental health services that go beyond the dwindling resources of the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers that operate in Kentucky schools.
Without future investment in these services, it will be difficult to continue to build on the recent education momentum that has taken Floyd County from academic bankruptcy in the 1980s to a school district in the top 10 in Kentucky in college and career readiness growth today.
We need to invest in educational resources at all levels.
This is not a time to be pessimistic. It is a time to recognize the work we need to do together to create a future we want for ourselves and our children.