KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The news was spilling from journals on neuroscience:
Children were born to learn from the cradle. Their brains thirsted, and parents had to be their first and best teachers.
But parents weren't exactly reading scientific papers, so in the early 1980s, Mildred Winter set off like a self-described missionary to take the message into the homes of Missouri parents.
Selling the notion that they should allow educators into their homes to train them to teach their newborns and toddlers wasn't easy, said Winter, Missouri's first director of early childhood education.
It's easier now.
Nov. 7 marked the 25th anniversary of legislation in 1984 that forced all Missouri school districts to offer the experimental Parents as Teachers program to families living in their boundaries.
Not just to targeted families. Not just for low-income families. But any family in every district.
It grew far beyond its Missouri roots.
It is international now, with more than 3,000 programs in all 50 states and six countries, according to the Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis. Last year, state records showed, the program reached 43 percent of families in Missouri with children ages 3 and younger.
Missouri still is the only state that requires all its school districts to participate, and it is by far the largest user, serving about 150,000 families.
Other states that are heavily involved include Kansas, Michigan and Illinois, which serve 12,000 to 20,000 families each.