Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting Your Brain Around Early Childhood Development

Whether you’re a pediatrician, teacher, policymaker or parent – we can all agree that the future rests in the development and well-being of our children. One of the best ways to ensure their success and strengthen our community is making sure every child has access to quality early childhood education in the first five years of life.

Nearly 90 percent of brain growth takes place in a child’s first 2,000 days – long before they first step foot into Kindergarten. Healthy brain development requires healthy, positive and constant interaction. Children need positive early learning environments – ripe with regular stimulation and interaction – from their parents and caregivers.

That’s why every child needs quality early childhood education through their parents and through resources that help parents aid in the healthy development of their children. But we know that not all parents can provide it. Some lack the education to know how to create the most stimulating and supportive home environment for their children. Others are pressed financially, working hard and having to place their children in the care of others who “watch” their children rather than help them grow through quality interaction and learning. The result can be devastating developmental, learning and social delays that affect their ability to do well in school, career and life. Disadvantaged children reach school with a dramatically smaller vocabulary than their more advantaged peers and lack the character skills of attentiveness, persistence, impulse control and sociability that are critical for learning and achieving. In short, the achievement gap happens long before these children get to school and it is very hard to close thereafter.

Fortunately, investments in early childhood education are proven to prevent these disparities long before they even start. Quality early childhood education helps develop the critical cognitive and character skills that set the foundation for success in school and life. Research shows that we can prevent the achievement gap, boost school achievement and create better health and economic outcomes with early childhood education.

With such powerful proof in hand, communities across the country have come together to show their support of early childhood education and development programs. On July 8, the first-ever virtual Rally4Babies was held and brought record turn-out as award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien hosted Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and actress Jennifer Garner in an important discussion around the benefits of policies that support child development in a strategic and sensible way.

You can learn more about the rally and other great events in support of early childhood education by checking out or joining the conversation on Twitter at #Rally4Babies or #GrowAmericaStronger.

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