alcohol use.You might call it a grading scale forchild care centers. When the Virginia Star Quality Initiativestarted in the Roanoke Valley five years ago, there were only four child care centers thatwere star- rated. Now there are 23.In today's Early Years, we're findingout what that star rating system meansfor families searching for quality child care in our area. What the hardest letter to make of all? Children's Castle in Roanoke first joinedthe Virginia Star QualityInitiative about two years ago.Working to becomestar- rated is a voluntarymission for day carecenters across the state looking to make improvements. jessica fleck/children'scastle assistantdirectorit allows our teachers to bemoreinvolved, especially withthe ongoing trainings thatare oferedthrough the virginia starquality initiative program.kris meyers/smartbeginningsgreater roanoke:it's reallyshowing thatthe teachers and staff atthat programare not just interested intheir currentquality level, but looking athow they cankeep improving and how theycan do what'sbest for children. The initiative looks atfour key areas, including staff training and teacherqualifications, student- teacherratios, materials and activities in the classrooms and thequality of interaction between teachersand kids. That checklist helps parents make more informed decisionsabout child care and pre- school. kris meyers/smartbeginningsgreater roanoke:we can talkabout how to recognizenot just that there arebooks in the classroom, butare the books age-appropriate? are there varieties andtypes of books? so we can kindof take what the rating islooking for andshow parents some of thosekey features of things to belooking for as well.Meyers says quality early education,especially for children from birth toage five, is crucial ina child's development.kris meyers/smartbeginnings greaterroanoke:sometimespar... just go in a centerand seechildren playing, andthey don't really realizethat there's a lot ofinteraction going on wherethe teacher is prompting themto think aboutnumbers and letters and touse that in their play. To learn about other programs that areinvolved in the Virginia Star Quality Iniative, as well ashow SmartBeginnings helps with that effort, justhead to WDBJ7- dot- com. I'll put up a link after this newscast.