ELKVIEW, W.Va. — An early childhood learning program is expanding in West Virginia.

On Friday, three West Virginia elementary schools were added to the Born Learning Academy program, bringing the total number of school readiness academies in the state to 14.

The program is offered through the Education Alliance and United Way. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia provides grant funding to schools.

The new schools include Bridge-Clendenin Elementary in Kanawha County, Mylan Park Elementary in Monongalia County and Tuscarora Elementary in Berkeley County.

Through hands-on activities, parents will learn to turn every day moments into learning opportunities through a serious of six monthly academies. Activities include learning how to incorporate nutritious meals, teaching kids the importance of getting a good night sleep and helping students learn how to read and write.

One activity included making maracas out of spoons, said Bridge-Clendenin Elementary teacher Cathy Clendenin.

“We talked about how we can make that the shape, we can talk about tempo — fast and slow — we can use positional words like shake it over your head or under your legs. It’s just a way to teach parents how to expand on what they’re already doing,” she said.

Amelia Courts, president of the Education Alliance, said this is to help families prepare their children for school.

“Making sure that our families and out communities are well equipped with the strategies that they need to provide a strong foundation for their children, so that when they enter kindergarten, they are kindergarten ready and they’re ready for success in school,” Courts said following a check presentation at Bridge-Clendenin Elementary Friday morning.

Toyota WV presented a $61,500 grant to the three new schools. So far, Toyota has invested nearly $192,000 into the Born Learning Academy program.

Leah Curry, president of Toyota WV said it’s important to invest in early education to improve West Virginia’s workforce.

“It’s just one part of our overall plan for workforce development for the future,” Curry said. “It’s really one-on-one with kids, teachers, counselors and parents on an everyday basis.”

The Elkview community still works to rebuild after the June 2016 flood. Bridge and Clendenin elementary schools had to combine students and teachers into one building after Clendenin Elementary was destroyed in the flood. The school now operates as Bridge-Clendenin Elementary.

Principal Maggie Holley said the new program brings some much needed positive news for the region.

“This program is going to open up a lot of doors for a lot of people. The staff here has done an amazing job, so it’s a happy thing that this area really needed,” Holley said.

Studies show that 90 percent of a child’s brain development has occurred by the age of five. Courts said data shows the program is working. She said West Virginia students are excelling in school because parents are using the strategies being taught.

“Almost 95 percent of the families report that they’re able to take the strategies that they learn at the academies and help implement them and integrate them into their lifestyles, which is really the goal,” Courts said.

Ten counties currently have Born Learning Academies. Courts said the goal is to expand the academies statewide.

The existing academies in West Virginia are listed below:

Mason County
Leon Elementary School

Preston County
Aurora Elementary School

Putnam County
Poca Elementary School
Hometown Elementary School
Buffalo Elementary School

Cabell County
Highlawn Elementary School

Boone County
Brookview Elementary School

Lincoln County
Hamlin PK-8 School

Kanawha County
Edgewood Elementary School

Hancock County
New Manchester Elementary School

Marion County
Blackshere Elementary School

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