Child-focused organizations want to make sure parents and professionals know how to push for the best education, whether that means speaking to teachers, principals or elected representatives.

“A lot of people think they have to be an expert before they advocate,” said Sarah Hughes, Colorado Children’s Campaign research director. “Parents can be the most effective advocates.”

That’s because statistics don’t have faces, she said. Passion and personal stories can have a bigger impact than numbers, she said.

Pikes Peak United Way, Alliance for Kids and Colorado Children’s Campaign presented “Parents: The First and Best Education Advocates” Friday at Pikes Peak Community College.

The session included a review of the 2012 Kids Count report, which details statistics on families and children across the state. In some categories, El Paso County numbers paint a better picture when compared with details statewide, especially in education.

However, there is still significant need for improvement, officials say. For example, 29 percent of fourth-graders are not reading at grade level in El Paso County.

Professionals who work with kids said Colorado statistics on health care and economics are also troubling, since those issues impact how well kids do in school.

“The data is pretty grim,” Hughes said.

The 2013 report comes out next month.

Advocacy training events are hosted by several groups throughout the year. It’s common for those who attend to be primarily professionals who work with children and families, Hughes said.

Too often, advocates are professionals and don’t have the point of view and stories that parents can share, said Terri Anderson, collaborative management program coordinator for El Paso County.

Charles Hill, who has a 10-year-old daughter and plans to host foster kids in his home, attended the four-hour Friday workshop.

“Hopefully, it will help me improve as a parent,” he said.

Learning about advocacy and resources will help him to better meet the needs of the kids he cares for, he said, as well as make him a better mentor.

A goal of the professionals at Friday’s event was giving parents tools.

“I don’t think parents know all the resources available to them,” said Amanda Clauss, Child Find coordinator with Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice