Invest now in early learning

06/13/2013 12:00 AM

06/12/2013 5:16 PM

The following commentary was submitted by Katie Lynn, Aaron Fowler, Dene Nelson, Glenda Wilcox, Mike Duxler, Karen Rogers, Sandy Bequette, Lindsay McClellan, Kim German, Kim McDowell, Amy Alfred, John Walker, Max Miller, Teresa Thompson, Jeanine Phillips and LeAnn Kruckenberg:

We are a diverse group of local professionals committed to creating the best possible environment for all Wichita’s children to develop and flourish.

Too many children in our community arrive at the kindergarten door already behind their peers. Recent Wichita figures show that 52 percent of our children were born into poverty, often with little or no prenatal care; that 49 percent of births were to single mothers; and that about 1 in 5 maltreated children was younger than 3 (Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center).

The Zero to Three organization notes: “Without positive experiences that create strong foundations, learning gaps appear early, sometimes detectable before a child’s first birthday. Disparities widen as children grow. By age 2, low-income toddlers are often behind both in cognitive and social-emotional measures. By the time they reach prekindergarten, they’re playing catch-up, not moving ahead.”

James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, said that there is no more important societal priority than to its very young: “Early learning begets later learning and early success breeds later success, just as early failure breeds later failure. Success or failure at this stage lays the foundation for success or failure in school, which in turn leads to success or failure in post-school learning.”

But where do we start if we are to make sure our children are ready for school? In the past decade there have been compelling and mounting scientific discoveries that have clearly identified many simple, inexpensive yet powerful methods that can positively impact children for a lifetime.

We need to invest in early learning, starting at birth. This is precisely why the president, with bipartisan support from Congress, has made it a top priority to support communities to support young children.

We believe that the first years last forever.

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