Posted by Jerri Derlikowski on July 8th 2013
Birth to three years old is the peak age for brain development and learning. In fact, with 700 new neural connections forming every second, the first three years of life are the most crucial time for developing critical brain functions such as hearing, language and cognition.
Without the chance to participate in high-quality early childhood development and learning programs, gaps can appear early, sometimes even before a child's first birthday. That means that by the time some children reach preschool, they are already playing catch-up.
The good news is that we have a number of high-quality programs and services in place to provide those positive early opportunities for children birth to five, including child care, Early Head Start, early intervention, and home visiting. Arkansas just passed Act 528 in the 2013 session to strengthen our home visiting programs. The act calls for a focus on evidence-based programs and for increased accountability through coordination of data collection and evaluation.
Here in Arkansas for 3- and 4-year olds we have the state funded Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program. Arkansas Better Chance and Head Start combined serve 80 percent of our eligible 4-year-olds and 47 percent of eligible 3-year-olds. Unfortunately, this level of service can't continue. ABC has been flat-funded since 2008 while costs continue to rise and Head Start is the victim of sequestration cuts at the federal level.
What we need is for you, our elected leaders, to take the lead and adequately fund them by expanding investments in early learning that starts at birth. Parents and experts in the early childhood field across the country are urging President Obama and Congress to expand early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers, as well as young children in preschool.
Join us for an online Rally4Babies on Monday, July 8 at 1:00 to show your support for our youngest children. The event will be hosted live online at YouTube, and details and updates are regularly being posted on the rally web page, www.rally4babies.org. (The event will also be available for viewing at a later time).
Connect live with keynote speakers, including Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, popular children's musician Laurie Berkner, as well as parents and leaders in the early childhood learning field.
When infants and toddlers get a strong start, our nation prospers. Learning happens from the start and so should our investments in children.