Parents have long known that babies are
born learning, and research confirms that the first five years of life
are a time of enormous social, emotional, physical and intellectual
growth. Young children need a safe, nurturing and stimulating place
where they can explore the world around them. But in today's world,
parents juggle multiple responsibilities of family, work and everyday
Given the importance of getting children off to a good start, how can
state and local communities better support parents as first teachers?
The Early Care and Education Coalition
has taken up this challenge. We aim to make sure all young children in
Washington state have what they need to make a good start in life. We
are a cross-sector advocacy group focused on early childhood, with
partners such as the Foundation for Early Learning, the Boeing Company,
the Paul G. Allen Foundation, the Kirlin Foundation and the Children's
Policy makers are beginning
to understand why high-quality early care and education are important,
but they need to hear from more of us that this is a priority for
action. The Coalition focuses information and advocacy efforts toward
creation of new choices for young children and their families. We aim
to engage 20,000 people who will share information with others, and
make their voices heard in their community.
The Coalition has identified these key needs on which to focus our efforts:
- Parent information and support.
Children who feel safe, loved and appreciated grow into caring children
who are excited to learn. Since parents are often balancing work and
home responsibilities, and the experience of parenting might be new and
challenging, support from others often makes a difference.
- Improved quality of care.
The quality of children's relationships at home and in care settings
forms the path for life-long learning and success. Quality of care
affects all aspects of a child's growth -- socio-emotional, physical,
cognitive and language. For this to happen, children need consistent,
knowledgeable and skilled caregivers. Providing adequate compensation
for caregivers keeps turnover low, and having low child-staff ratios
and interactive activities appropriate to each child's stage of
development costs money. As a result, high-quality care is out of the
reach of many parents, leaving most children in mediocre- to
poor-quality care. Since nearly 70 percent of parents use some form of
out-of-home care, the need is critical.
- More preschool choices.
Preschool is often the place where children begin to take their curious
minds into a more social and educational setting. Research shows the
long-term benefits of preschool for educational attainment and success
in life. However, our state cannot even provide preschool opportunities
for half the eligible low-income children, let alone all the children
whose parents choose it.
Here's what you can do to help:
Funded by foundations and community-minded businesses, the Coalition is
working to build a strong voice for parents and young children. The
improvements we seek will require more public attention and new
investments. We need your help to galvanize statewide support to make a
measurable difference in the lives of young children.
Sign up: Visit our Web site at www.earlyeducationcoalition.org
and sign up to receive email messages containing news, information that
you can share with others, and specific actions you can take.
Tom Campbell is a father of three children and Project Director for the Early Care and Education Coalition.