This fall we had the good fortune to be part of kindergarten registration in eight Shelby County schools. We saw excited children, nervous parents, competent teachers, and curious little brothers and sisters. During our wonderful time there, we also collected data for our efforts to better understand kindergarten readiness.
Research to Policy is our monthly publication that attempts to take our beliefs on early childhood development through three stages: research (scientific evidence), practice (personal experiences), and policy (community-adopted change) in order to raise the number of children who beat the odds in Memphis and strengthen our shared future as a community.
Across the country, working families have one thing in common: a need to find safe, affordable, quality care for their children. In 35 states, the cost of childcare now exceeds public college tuition, pricing it beyond the reach of even many middle class families. Worse yet, families who do find reasonably priced care can be stuck on waiting lists for years.
Prematurity takes a high toll on families, and imposes high costs to society. More babies die each year from causes related to prematurity than from any other single cause, and children born prematurely are much more likely to require extended hospital stays, and they run much higher risks of long-term health problems.
When we speak about kindergarten readiness, we often prioritize the critical cognitive skills, like simple memorization or early steps of math. These cognitive skills often overshadow basic social and emotional skills like knowing appropriate classroom behaviors, or demonstrating basic interpersonal skills.
One of my first memories is of my mother putting on the soundtrack to Cats the musical. My siblings and I would crawl and climb around the house, pretending to be cats. It was a simple, silly activity, but it got us moving and using our imaginations. It also tired us out just in time for a nap. Physical health is vital to optimal early childhood development.
The Urban Child Institute recently launched its Baby Small campaign, offering a big idea: we can improve the future of our community through small, smart decisions and actions that promote optimal early childhood brain development. Baby Small reminds us that the first years of life are a period of both extraordinary development and extraordinary opportunity. Babies' brains develop in response to their environments.