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Learning Happens from the Start

July 15, 2013

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Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

Learning Happens from the Start

I just finished watching the most amazing thing…  Rally4babies!  This “rally” took place on July 8th and brought together Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Arne Duncan – U.S. Department of Education, Alma Powell – Chair of the Board at America’s Promise Alliance, Jennifer Garner – Actor and Save the Children Artist Ambassador, and Laurie Berkner – Children’s Musician.  Together, with Soledad O’Brien serving as moderator, the group shared information about the very important work of providing quality care for not just our three to fives, but for infants and toddlers, as well.
Barack Obama, in February’s State of the Union address, called for universal preschool in the US, saying, “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, studies show students grow up more likely to graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works.”  The ultimate purpose of this rally is to urge the administration and congress to fund proven programs and invest in children early.

 

It just makes sense to focus on babies, since learning begins at birth. 700 new connections are made in the brain EVERY SECOND in the first three years.  That’s almost hard to imagine!  This brain “architecture” is heavily dependent on relationships and experiences and is directly influenced by quality of care, which can strengthen or weaken vital social emotional skills such as attachment and self-regulation.  Think about this brain “architecture” like a house.  What happens if your house has problems with its foundation?

 

In education, we talk a lot about the achievement gap, but let’s talk about the “word gap” for just a moment. By age three, economically advantaged children have on average around 1100 words at their disposal, compared to those of the economically disadvantaged, who have around 500.  These children begin kindergarten a year to a year and a half behind their peers, yet they all end up in the same classroom and the teacher is expected to teach them all.  What we really have is an opportunity gap.  Everyone should have access to a safe, secure, and stimulating environment.  Bottom line.

 

So, here I am again asking the question, “Why do we wait until a child is in school to intervene?”  It just makes good sense to provide the investment necessary to prevent problems before they occur.  For every $1 spent on early childhood, there is a savings of anywhere from $3 – $17 per child in public spending.  The investment pays huge dividends, but to see the “pay out”, our politicians must have a long-term vision. This is a long-term investment, where the dividends might not appear for 10-15 or even 20 years later.  And when they do, they look like less high school drop outs, less teenage pregnancy, less crime, more people working, and becoming productive tax payers that contribute to society.  Aren’t these universal goals for our society?  The unfortunate truth is politicians are short-term, living in the here and now.

 

The bottom line is, we need congressional support for the president’s comprehensive proposal, and according to the Secretary of Education, it must be bi-partisan support which will require members of the House to step up and do what’s right.

 

Alma Powell, from America’s Promise Alliance reminds us that it takes a village, and WE ARE THAT VILLAGE, not someone else. I would urge you to check out this informative video and sign the petition, which is available at rally4babies.org.

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