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.

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We've all heard the parable that no one nearing the end of life wishes he or she had spent more time at work. Here, at The Urban Child Institute, we have a similar parable, but we say no one nears the end of life and says: "I wish I hadn't given so much attention to my children."

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With the recent decision to consolidate our schools, as well as an influx of money from the Gates Foundation and the federal government's Race to the Top, this should be a pivotal moment for our community. However, the Urban Child Institute recently published the 2011 Data Book: The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County, which offers frightening evidence of the growing number of children in Memphis and Shelby County who are not ready to enter kindergarten.

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Preliminary results of a current study being conducted by Vanderbilt University in partnership with the Division of School Readiness and Early Learning at the Tennessee State Department of Education show that children attending state-sponsored pre-kindergarten programs do significantly better in school than those who do not attend pre-K.

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