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Too Small to Fail

June 24, 2013

Literacy Notes Ready Readers News


Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

In a recent announcement being publicized as “Clinton’s first project since leaving the government,” the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the California-based Next Generation organization are undertaking a campaign called “Too Small to Fail.” The intent of the multi-million dollar, five-year initiative is to “bolster and publicize research on early childhood and to make sure early childhood stays on the national agenda.”

Jack Shonkoff, a Harvard University pediatrician and researcher, is a supporter of this program.  He developed and publicized the concept of “toxic stress” – the idea that negative experiences in very young children can alter brain development in ways that are extremely difficult to reverse; putting kids at a monumental risk of intellectual, emotional, and cognitive challenges down the road.

One goal of the program is to provide families and businesses with cutting-edge research on brain development identified as “new”, although I would argue that we have known for quite some time about the importance of early experiences.  When I was a parent educator way back when, everything we did was focused on this “new” brain research.

Another goal is to “convene childhood development experts, parents, private sector leaders, and other stakeholders in a major, national discussion that helps further advance understanding of the science of early childhood development.”  It would seem that President Obama announcing on national television that early care and education needs attention is a good jumping-off point for this “national discussion.”  Four months ago, in the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a universal pre-kindergarten program that would make sure the children of working parents have supportive, stimulating care while their mothers and fathers are on the job.  One particular focus of the initiative is on children from low-income families in which children are less likely to get the support they need for a variety of reasons.  But, while Obama’s budget allocated $75 billion for the initiative, Congress has not shown tremendous interest.  Big surprise!  We can talk about this until we’re blue in the face, but that’s not getting the job done.  At the risk of sounding like Jerry Maguire… SHOW ME THE MONEY!  Now, I’m not a fan of “throwing” money at a problem, but what if we at least stopped taking the money away from early childhood?  There’s a concept!

It is felt that causes like this will succeed due to long, sustained efforts to build public support.  It’s interesting… I don’t see this as a “cause” as much as common sense.

While I agree 100% that we need to collect and disseminate information regarding the benefits of early care and education, I think it’s more about making sure the “right” people get ahold of it.  Parents and businesses, certainly.  But, how do we get the people that can REALLY make a difference interested enough in this to actually do something about it?  That’s the real question, isn’t it.  I would welcome your thoughts on the topic and look forward to continued dialogue!

Now, for a word from our sponsors…  Interested parents, community and business leaders, and individuals who visit www.toosmall.org can join the initiative and receive updates on the latest research and actions they can take to improve the health and educational prospects of children. The initiative will also utilize broadcast, print, and social media to reach parents, caregivers, and business leaders across the country.

 

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