As a prekindergarten teacher for Shelby County Schools, I have firsthand experience with the school readiness problem in our community. I have kids who begin the year not knowing how to spell their names, and some who don’t know a single letter of the alphabet.

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A little more than a year ago, Dr. Meg West, a member of our board at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum suggested I take a look at an exhibit at The Urban Child Institute about the development of a child's brain. On Tuesday a user-friendly, highly interactive version of a portion of that exhibit will debut at the Pink Palace.

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In "Data Book 2013: The State of Children in Memphis & Shelby County," The Urban Child Institute explores social and economic conditions affecting optimal brain development for babies ages zero to three, and subsequently outlines critical areas that need improvement. Research findings show that the environment and community in which a child is born and raised contributes greatly to her future well being, while the health and well-being of its children determines a community's future.

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Babies and young children often serve as the greatest sources of joy in our adult lives. Maybe that's why we are all guilty at times of going against our better judgment – spending beyond our means or giving in to tearful requests even when we suspect it may not be the right thing to do.

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