SHOALS – The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) report released in February that resulted in a presentation earlier this summer by The Committee For A Greater Shoals unwittingly revealed some significant news related to local elementary students.

The detailed PARCA report compared our community with the other major metropolitan statistical areas in Alabama in key areas and pointed out some opportunities that we had at our disposal.

In summation, PARCA recommended that the Shoals community build on existing areas of cooperation, its strong education base, and enhancing the area’s unique assets.

Deep within the report was a brief educational reference pertaining to the college and career readiness of high school seniors in the state’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s).

It was accompanied by by the graph on page 37 showing how the Shoals MSA is far and away the state leader in the work and career readiness of high school seniors. The disproportion between the Shoals and the rest of the pack is glaring and seems to imply a charting error.

Tom Spencer, Senior Research Associate at PARCA, confirmed the graph’s accuracy noting that the Shoals’ 82.7% figure rated a staggering 6.7% higher than Baldwin County which came in at 76%. Baldwin is east of Mobile in the coast and includes Daphne, Fairhope, Spanish Fort, and Bay Minette. Several other MSA’s were clustered with Baldwin in the low-mid 70’s. The state average for workforce or college readiness was 71%, almost twelve percentage points below the Shoals.

That impressive figure for the Shoals is strong validation of our success in many areas.

One glaring difference in our community and all the others is that Colbert and Lauderdale counties are the only counties in Alabama that have the reading and learning resource of Kidsville News!

The Courier Journal has been publishing Kidsville News! monthly for almost 14 school years with the first issue coming off the press in October of 2006.

The high PARCA figure and the community’s association with Kidsville News! doesn’t seem to be coincidental.

As is the case in every community, a large percentage of children will excel regardless. Likewise, a much smaller percentage will languish when they get to high school no matter what approaches are taken. The key is reaching a great majority of those in the middle. Kidsville News! is packed full of fun, informative, and challenging information every month for children in grades K-6.

The clean, colorful, 24-page tab-sized product is printed on high-quality bright newsprint. It is delivered to all local schools early every month, one for every student, teacher, and support staffer. The students get to take Kidsville News! home. It is theirs to read on their own or with a loving parent, grandparent, or sibling. They can read on their own time and it’s not schoolwork. Copies are also delivered to all public libraries so that home schoolers have easy access.

Each issue of this two-time Parents Choice Award-winning paper is packed with articles, pictures, and games that capture the imagination of children at various reading and comprehension levels.

In addition, several retired local educators and active historians contribute informative pieces about local events and history that children will not read anywhere else.

It is well-documented that students who read proficiently by the 3rd grade are much more likely to learn as years pass. They will be better able to absorb information and they will have a greater interest in learning and exploring opportunities.

While the proficient readers all find Kidsville News! engaging and entertaining, the real key to a high percentage of college and career readiness is reaching the marginal learners. Cultivating the child’s confidence in reading and retaining will naturally aid in that thirst to increase knowledge. That process opens up so many doors later in the educational process.

The key to all of it is getting children interested and proficient in reading during their formative years. THAT is what Kidsville News! can do for a community.

The Courier Journal is proud to be associated with such an initiative. We are greatly appreciative to all the writers and sponsors over the years who have helped local students attain such a high degree of success where the sky is truly the limit. We look forward to helping future classes of children with those important building blocks of knowledge.