Why the Early Years Are Important Research increasingly confirms that a child’s experiences “An important lesson to draw from in the initial years of life heavily influence growth and the entire literature on successful early development. Consider: intervention is that it is the social skills n Roughly 85 percent of the brain’s core structure is formed and motiviation of the child that are more by age three. (ABC’s of Early Childhood) easilty altered – not IQ. These social and emotional skills affect performance n Although 90 percent of a person’s total brain development in school and in the workplace. We too occurs by age three, less than five percent of public often have a bias toward believing that spending is targeted to children aged birth to three. only cognitive skills are of fundamental (ABC’s) importance to success in life.” n An estimated six million children under the age of three James J. Heckman, PhD spend some or all of their day being cared for by someone Nobel Leaureate of Economic Sciences other than a member of their immediate family. (Ehrle) 2000 n Factors that influence a child’s brain development—the Invest in the Very Young, environment and family—can put the child at risk or Ounce of Prevention Fund, 2000 protect the child from risk. n Early childhood interventions are particularly effective for low-income children, and welfare reform has increased the demand for quality care and education for very young children. n High-quality early childhood services support healthy development over the long term and influence a child’s Academic preparedness requires two equally important sets ability to succeed in school, in addition to supporting the of skills: social-emotional skills to communicate, cooperate, family as a whole. and cope with challenges and cognitive skills that provide Evidence such as this provides a compelling reason for children with specific subject-based knowledge (e.g., letters county leaders to invest in the care of children from birth to and numbers). This is why well-trained, responsive, and age five. nurturing caregivers play a crucial role in early childhood services. The development and implementation of early childhood programs are based on sound science: Children are born Counties and states across the country are working to link with roughly 100 billion neurons. Connections between Head Start, child care, and other early childhood programs these neurons are tentative at birth, but they are rapidly so that families with young children can benefit from modified and “hardwired” as the child grows, experiences the comprehensive, integrated services. When counties invest in world, and establishes relationships with others. Hardwired such programs, their “payback” is a reduction in expenditures connections are responsible for all of a child’s major cognitive for intervention services and programs later in the child’s and emotional functions—including vision, hearing, life. Even better, the children and their families are enriched language, social-emotional development, and movement. in ways that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
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