August 15, 2013
by Edward Chisolm
For 25 years now, the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority (YFA) has tried its best to be a beacon of light for thousands of children and families in this community. We still believe in our vision that "Every child will grow up healthy and secure to become a self-sufficient contributing member of the community." We are reminded that we should let our light so shine that men may see it. We have made a promise to the youth of our community to be a light of change to ensure that their path will be clear. We have promised to be a light of hope to ensure that their destiny can be realized.
The YFA has focused on the need for our children to be ready for school. Too many of our children enter kindergarten without being academically and socially prepared. Because of this many of our children struggle through their school years because they have entered school already behind, and this problem just continues to manifest itself in a variety of negative ways as they get older. Prevention is one of the principle ways to address this problem, and early learning opportunities before children enter kindergarten ranks very high on the ladder of success for many of our children. Early learning takes many forms, but for the purpose of this brief commentary we will address two primary forms.
For one, parents need to be aware of how significant it is to talk to and communicate with their children starting at infancy. Recent groundbreaking research on brain development has shown us that children have a critical window in their brain development between birth and age five. Responsive and attentive interactions between young children and the adults around them during this period form strong neural connections and shape the architecture of the brain. This is why every single interaction with babies and preschoolers matters so much. Indeed, fostering strong development in these early years is vitally important to children’s success in life. The first 2,000 days (5 years) in a child’s life are critical in laying the foundation for learning.
Brain development research tells us the pathways for language and vocabulary development are
strengthened with every word spoken, book read, and positive interaction with adults from the moment a child is born. This is even more crucial in low-income families. Research has also shown that by age 4, children from high-income families hear a total of 32 million more words spoken in their homes than children from low-income families. Low-income first grade children have a vocabulary half the size of children from higher-income families. Children who do not learn to read by the end of the third grade cannot read to learn in fourth grade and beyond.
Another critical area is in the quality of the early childhood development that our children receive before they enter kindergarten. For a variety of reasons, too many of our children do not receive quality child care that exposes them to the cognitive and developmental attributes that helps to prepare them for school. One step in the right direction is to collectively do all that we can to increase the quality of the child care experiences for our children, and to promote every opportunity to have our children exposed to the types of curriculum and environment that positively increases their level of functioning and preparedness for school. This would, at least, place them on a level playing field when they enter school. Having more children who are “school ready” when they enter kindergarten benefits the child, the parents, and the school system.
Light represents truth. Our truth centers on the fact that children are our most precious resource. They are the reason we live and fight. Our truth motivates us to advocate in a way that yields results.
Truth needs no defender but itself. We will, for the sake of our children’s lives and their legacy, continue to shine ever so brightly in our community now and in the foreseeable future.
Edward Chisolm, Executive Director
Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority