For many people these days, the word "policy" invokes thoughts of red and blue, left and right, elephants and donkeys. But for those in the research and policy group at the Urban Child Institute, the word is less dichotomous.

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When I was a little girl my parents told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be. By the time I entered the third grade, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to become a writer. My Mom says there was a short-lived phase when I would only communicate through writing. My Mom and Dad nurtured my early, yet perplexing interest in words and non-verbal communication....

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According to The Urban Child Institute, a positive home and family environment is essential to promote optimal brain development in young children, and is also paramount to their future success. Language and thinking skills, self control, and self confidence are all aspects of school readiness that are largely determined by the level of support that exists in the home during the first three years of life.

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Children don't choose the families they are born into, the neighborhoods in which they are raised or the policies that govern them. However, each of these influences plays a critical role in determining their future successes and failures. The Urban Child Institute's "2012 Data Book: The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County" takes a closer look at the relationship between home environments and early childhood development, and the implications for later life outcomes.

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