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Making a Difference: Giving children a strong start

The early years of a child’s life are perhaps the most important, laying a foundation critical to the child’s future health and development.  

In Kentucky, research shows that nearly half of all children are not Kindergarten-ready, meaning they’ve not met the development milestones that suggest they will keep up with their peers when they enter school for the first time without additional support.  

An image of an electronic tablet with illustrations of parents and children doing things together along with the Let's Learn Kentucky logo.

“When children start behind, it is very difficult for them to catch up,” said Amy Neal, executive director of the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. “So those early education years are a critical component of K-12 success.”  

To close this achievement gap, children need a “high-quality early learning environment” that encourages them to learn and grow. And the most important learning environment, research shows, is in a child’s home.  

“Parents are a child’s most important first teacher because they’re the ones who will spend the most time with the child,” said Dr. Donna Grigsby, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Kentucky. “That’s a daunting thing for parents to hear. But they can take comfort in the fact that children don’t have to be made to learn—they’re born ready to learn.”  

Let’s Learn Kentucky, a new website developed and curated by KET, is a resource hub for parents and caregivers navigating those first formative years in a child’s development.  

Research shows that nearly 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5.

Developed by KET and joined by partners throughout the state, the online initiative provides a one-stop center with an overview of what it means to be Kindergarten-ready, a variety of activities that parents and caregivers can incorporate into their child’s daily routines to encourage learning, and links to helpful state and national resources.  

“Parents have a lot of important questions about their child’s early development, but it can be hard to find answers on the internet,” said Tonya Crum, KET’s senior director of education. “The Let’s Learn Kentucky website was designed to be easy to use and navigate, especially on tablets and mobile devices. Families can turn to the site to find information about development milestones and other resources to ensure that their child has a strong foundation before entering Kindergarten.”  

Research shows that nearly 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5. And the best way to help encourage that development is surprisingly simple, Grigsby said.  

“People are enamored with screens, but the optimal way for the human brain to develop is through the stimulation of one-on-one interactions,” Grigsby said. “So talk with your children. Sing with them. Read with them. Respond to their cues. It’s those interactions that make a huge difference in how their brain develops.”  

To that end, the Let’s Learn Kentucky website offers an assortment of free activities from KET and PBS that parents and caregivers can add to their daily routines—tips on reading together, speaking and listening, exploring shapes and numbers, and even playing and moving together—that help make learning fun.  

For more information, visit LetsLearnKY.org.