Last year, 18 percent of kindergarteners in Loudoun County entered school without any preschool education. Publicly funded preschool programs here are full and have waiting lists, therefore many needy children are simply not served. In Sterling, Va., 59 percent of the Sterling Elementary kindergarten class did not attend preschool, 49 percent did not meet the fall school assessment and, following the first quarter, 43 percent required intervention services.
All Ages Read Together (AART), a 100WomenStrong grant recipient, is working hard to help children like these by offering free preschool programs to at-risk children between the ages of 4 and 5, most of whom are from non-English speaking homes and are from low- to moderate-income families. Research has shown that participation in high-quality early education programs not only improves early literacy and math skills, but also is associated with better academic performance in the primary grades and beyond.
When children start with AART, many have had little or no exposure to books, reading or a classroom setting. After they graduate from AART, they start kindergarten prepared for what’s expected of them in today’s increasingly rigorous and challenging educational environment. In addition, every child who attends AART receives books to help establish a home library.
Focusing on preschool skills not only saves the schools they enter an estimated $3,500 per child per year in remediation costs, but also – and more importantly – provides each child with the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by instilling the practical tools essential to overcoming the achievement gap that plagues our schools.
“AART is working towards reducing the achievement gap in Loudoun County,” said Michelle Sullivan, AART Executive Director. “This grant will help us to continue to serve the Sterling community with our current classes, as well as look to add a new location in the area.”
AART has identified a need for parenting education for families and is investigating parenting programs currently offered in the county for possible collaboration, assessing parents’ educational levels and possible gaps and developing topics that could be beneficial to parents.
“Parents are their children’s first teachers, so we want to build on their strengths and connect them with community activities and resources that will become tools they can use to encourage learning outside of the AART classroom,” Sullivan continued. “This generous grant from 100WomenStrong will help us assist even more children and families in the Sterling community and will ultimately benefit all of Loudoun County.”