Number of United Way Born Learning Academies to more than double

Toyota is giving a $52,000 check to the Education Alliance to add more United Way Born Learning Academies. (WCHS/WVAH)

A project that seeks to help children start learning early is more than doubling in size.

On Thursday, Toyota, The Education Alliance, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and the United Way announced seven new Born Learning Academies. These new schools more than double the number of kindergarten readiness academies in West Virginia to 13, according to a news release from organizers.

United Way Born Learning Academies are free to families and seek to teach parents and caregivers of children from prenatal to 5 years of age how to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities through a series of six monthly workshops.

The project is trying to combat the educational achievement gap in West Virginia, where new data shows 70 percent of students are not proficient in math and half of kids are not proficient in reading.

New United Way Born Learning Academies are at the following schools and counties: Brookview Elementary School, Boone; Hamlin PK-8 School, Lincoln; Edgewood Elementary School, Kanawha; New Manchester Elementary School, Hancock; Hometown Elementary School, Putnam; Blackshere Elementary School, Marion; and Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School, Raleigh.

Existing United Way Born Learning Academies are at these locations and counties: Leon Elementary School, Mason; Aurora Elementary School, Preston; Poca Elementary School, Putnam; Highlawn Elementary School, Cabell; Buffalo Elementary School, Putnam; and East Lynn Elementary School, Wayne.

Thursday’s $52,000 grant from Toyota brings the automaker’s total investment into the program in West Virginia to $130,500. Along with a $38,200 grant from The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, seven more Academies will join the effort this year to help families prepare their children for kindergarten.

The money helps with an effort to get kids learning early. New data shows half of kids are not proficient in reading, and 70 percent are not proficient in mathematics.

"Really, it's not a cost. It's an investment,” said Millie Marshall, president of Toyota Manufacturing West Virginia. “As Sen. Jackson mentioned, we can't start at high school, we can't start at junior high, elementary. We've got to really start early on in elementary and pre-k. And if we're going to make a difference in this state, to be competitive in our workforce, we have to have that early investment."

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