Improve pre-K program

Dear editor:

I was pleased to read about the "overwhelmingly positive interest" in the Reading Conference for Arkansas Schools at the Hot Springs Convention Center ("Packed ADE conference comes to city," March 6). As the former adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, I can tell you that strong reading and math skills are extremely important for our future military readiness.

Fifteen percent of Arkansas high school students do not graduate on time and it is very difficult to join the military without a high school degree. Even among young adults in our state who do finish high school, 28 percent who seek to enlist cannot score highly enough on the military's exam for literacy, math and problem solving to be able to join.

Research shows that many children are already behind on preliteracy and premath skills when they enter kindergarten, so we must start to build these skills at a very young age.

High-quality pre-K can prepare children to start school with critical early reading and math skills. A study of the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program found that children participating in ABC were four months ahead in vocabulary, had a 37 percent increase in premath scores, and answered 23 percent more questions correctly on a literacy test after one year, compared to children not in the program.

I urge state legislators to support investments to improve the state's pre-K program so that children have the skills to succeed in school and in future careers, including the military for those who choose to serve.

Melvin Thrash

Major general, U.S. Army, retired

Hot Springs

Editorial on 03/08/2017