It’s time to celebrate the Week of the Young Child. This post from last year still resonates with me, so I’m going to repost it. I’d love to hear in the comments section what you do to celebrate the week.
I hope you are planning on celebrating the Week of the Young Child on April 11-17. This week long event is planned by NAEYC to celebrate early learning, young children and their families, and early childhood educators. NAEYC has published a week of fun activities in which you can have your children, class, or school participate. Find out more about them by clicking on this link: http://www.naeyc.org/woyc .
Celebrating at our schools is great, but we must do more than engage with the children and families that are in our care. We need to get the word out to people who do not regularly think about young children and how important these years are. It may include your extended family, your friends who don’t work in early childhood education, and your government leaders. Without support of individuals who are not personally invested in early childhood education, it will be difficult to institute real reform. The Week of the Young Child is the perfect opportunity to let them know about 3 important elements of early childhood education.
1. The Early Years Matter. Research continues to show that the years from 0-5 make a lifelong difference in the success of a child. During these years, the brain is undergoing rapid development. The environment a child is placed in and the experiences a child has during these years can either launch a child toward his/her full potential or put up roadblocks that can be difficult to overcome. Children who are in a nurturing, language rich environment are more likely to have better social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. These children are more likely to have better vocabularies and be ready to start kindergarten. Conversely, infants and young children who experience chronic stress are more likely to have mental health issues, learning disabilities, and physical aliments throughout their life. There is a lot more research out there about how important the early years are, but you get the idea.
2. Highly-Qualified Early Childhood Teachers Matter. Highly qualified teachers who care for children 0-5 are professionals who deserve to be paid as such. Early childhood teachers not only provide a nurturing environment for the children while in their care, they can have an impact on the care a child gets at home by providing parent education and modeling skills parents can use. There is also a growing body of research that early childhood teachers have a lasting impact on a child’s entire school career.
A highly-qualified teacher possesses a wealth of skills and knowledge that are gained through education and experience. While most teachers find the career highly rewarding, one cannot pay rent with a hug or buy food with the gratitude of the parents. Teachers who provide this valuable service should be able to provide for their family while doing so. Raising the pay will also help ensure that every early childhood classroom has a highly-qualified teacher.
3. High-Quality Early Childhood Programs Matter. By some estimates over 65% of children 5 and under receive care outside the home. For most families, child care is a necessity so that the parent(s) can be gainfully employed. Yet not all preschools and day care centers provide a high-quality program which prepares the children to successfully enter school. One of the main reasons is because it is expensive to provide these programs. Without outside subsidy, most would be out of reach for middle- and low-income parents. We need to start looking for ways to fund high-quality programs so that the children who would most benefit have the opportunity to enroll.
Some states and local governments are starting to fund public pre-k education. While this is an excellent start, there may be some unintended consequences. These were identified in a micro-study conducted by Camp Fire Fort Worth. The tuition from four year olds is vital for the financial health of most preschools and day care centers. When more students are enrolled in public school, it will make care of the children who are left more expensive. (You can read the entire report here.) It would be detrimental to sacrifice quality programs for children 0-3 to provide pre-k for everyone. We need both!
Getting the Word Out. Here are three ways you can help spread the word about the importance of early childhood education to those beyond the early childhood community.
1. Use Social Media. Your personal Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram account, and other social media outlets are the perfect opportunity to voice your views on early childhood education. Our communities will hopefully be hearing more about early childhood education during The Week of the Young Child. Let’s add as many voices as we can. Need ideas? Each day April 13-17, I will be posting articles from a variety of sources on Tarrant Teacher Training’s Facebook page. Feel free to check them out and share them.
2. Talk to Non-Educators. I recently had the opportunity to share with a group some of the skills that must be mastered to learn to count. Most were surprised that counting was such a complex skill and left with a new found appreciation for the knowledge an early childhood educator must possess. Don’t be shy about sharing in formal and informal conversations about the importance of the early years.
3. Contact Your Civic Leaders. Many school districts and states are wrestling with funding for early childhood education. Those who are opposed to funding will certainly let their voices be heard, we need to be sure to let our elected leaders know why we support early childhood education. It will not be easy to find the money to have quality programs with well paid teachers, and I certainly don’t have a solution. But by having real dialogues, I truly believe we can work together to fix this problem.
The Week of the Young Child will be celebrated across the country and even around the world. Let’s add our voice to the conversation and make sure everyone understands how important the early years are.