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.

Around the world, a quality education is viewed as the golden ticket to a bright future. Local achievement rates reveal an urgent need to ensure that more students are being adequately prepared to cash in. Last week, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) reported that the city of Memphis is leading the state with the highest number of low performing schools. Figures released by the TDOE last year show that a mere 4 percent of Memphis City Schools students, 20 percent of Shelby County School students, and only 10 percent of students state-wide are meeting college readiness benchmarks.

It's the first day of kindergarten – is your child ready to learn? That's the question The Urban Child Institute is aiming to help parents address with the release of their new "Kindergarten Readiness Begins at Birth" handbook. In it, the organization summarizes best practices to promote optimal brain development during early childhood, and outlines ways parents can work to ensure their child develops basic mental, emotional, and social skills needed to succeed in school.

Through my work and involvement with The Urban Child Institute, I have learned that during the first three years of a child's life, family, home environment, and interactions with adults are the major factors in shaping the mental foundation for learning. Making the most of children's early upbringing has the potential to improve education and health and decrease poverty and unemployment – issues that are of great interest to me as someone who is concerned about the future of our community and our country.

Everyone is familiar with the "three Rs": Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. This phrase has long been used to describe the essential components of education – the three skill areas that all subsequent learning is built upon. But there is another phrase that we wish were just as familiar: Touch, Talk, Read, Play, or TTRP. These represent the most important activities that parents share with their babies and toddlers, and when it comes to learning, they are just as important as the three Rs.


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