Early education pilot programs coming to Northeast Louisiana

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana and Delta Community Action are recipients of grants for the early childhood education pilot program Ready Start Networks.

The Louisiana Department of Education is rolling out their new Ready Start pilot program to make early childhood education more community-oriented. (KNOE)

The Louisiana Department of Education announced the grants this week and awarded the organizations $100,000 for each parish they serve.

The Children's Coalition of Northeast Louisiana will be spearheading these Ready Start Networks in Richland and Morehouse parishes. Delta Community Action Agency will be leading the pilot program in Madison Parish.

The Louisiana Department of Education says the networks are, "coalitions of individuals committed to creating and implementing a bold local vision for early childhood education."

For Delta Community Action, they say that means they'll be able to really get hands-on with the education in their parish. The non-profit says they focus on early education for kids from birth to 5 years old.

"Research shows that 90% of children from birth to five, their brain is developed during that period," explains Manny Duque, the Operations Director for Delta Community Action. He says that's why it's important to put an emphasis on education at that age.

Duque says the parish does well in elementary school, but when it comes to the birth to 3 age group, he thinks they could have more programs.

"We have to get families ready and prepared to do things, so they can advocate and assist their children in being ready for school and then later on in life," says Carl Walk, Delta Community Head Start Director and Assistant Agency Director.

"Data shows that parents are engaged more at the Head Start level, but as the child gets older that engagement sort of drops off," says Walk.

That's something he says they want to change too.

The Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana says they want to focus on that age group before kids get to pre-school. Amy Clancy with the Coalition says in Richland Parish only 2% of infants are getting an early education, and in Morehouse Parish, that number is 3%.

Clancy says they want to serve much more children, but also really work on what that education will look like.

"We need to talk, we need to read, we need to play, and what does that play look like, we don't want them in front of a screen," says Clancy. "I always say children learn from interacting with people, not screens. That's really the truth, early learning is based on relationships."