First Lady kicks off back to school tour in Southwest Virginia

First Lady Pamela NorthamFirst Lady Pamela Northam will visit early childhood education programs and elementary schools in each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent Regions this week, highlighting the importance of school readiness.

As she visits classrooms across Virginia, the First Lady will also deliver books donated by bbgb books, an independent children’s bookshop in Richmond, beginning with Region 7 on August 20 and 21.

“This is an exciting time of year for parents, teachers, and students, but school readiness actually starts in those critical five years before kindergarten, when about 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs,” said First Lady Northam. “All Virginia children are capable of, and deserve to be, entering kindergarten with the tools they need to succeed. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality care and education for children and families, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Last year during their inaugural Back to School tour, the First Lady and staff traveled more than 2,000 miles and made 38 different stops where they engaged with educators, parents, students, legislators, and local leaders from the non-profit and business communities. Conversations during that tour have informed the administration’s work over the past year, from the implementation of the $9.9 million federal Preschool Development Grant to the recently released Draft Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Care and Education in Virginia.

“Expanding access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education is the greatest investment we can make in the future health and well-being of tomorrow’s leaders,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “We know that by strengthening early learning and development, we can better meet the needs of Virginia’s youngest learners and work to close the readiness gap so all children are poised for success in kindergarten and beyond.”

Last month, Northam signed Executive Director Four, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness that will be responsible for developing a plan to ensure that all at-risk three and four-year-olds in Virginia have access to a quality, subsidized early education option by 2025. Executive Directive Four also instructs state agencies to develop a uniform measurement and improvement system and make recommendations for streamlining early childhood governance at the state level.

“We are truly looking forward to the First Lady’s visit to our region as the new school year begins for each of our students,” said Travis Staton, President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia. “School readiness is more than having a brand-new backpack, it starts at birth—years before the first day of kindergarten.”

This year all kindergarten teachers in Virginia public schools will be using the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) to evaluate and better support each child entering kindergarten. Through VKRP, families and educators will work together closely to build children’s literacy, math, and socio-emotional skills so they start off school fully prepared to succeed during the kindergarten year and into the future.


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