The First Years Last a Lifetime

by Mary Johnson, Children's Ministries & Director of ATB&B

Though the language of Early Childhood Education has changed somewhat over the years, the facts have remained consistent. The early years matter. From the findings of Dr. Arnold Gesell as early as 1911 to Howard Gardner in the 1990's, the principles of Child Development have remained consistent. From birth, the human brain needs stimulus to promote language, social and emotional connection, and physical growth and development. Because research has shown that 90 percent of brain function is formed in the first five years, the first years last a lifetime.

In January, I attended two fascinating presentations and both included the profound impact the development of the brain has on a child's prediction for future success. Dr. Diana Rauner, the First Lady of the state of Illinois and director for The Ounce of Prevention and Dr. Marcy Guddemi, CEO of the Gesell Institute for Child Development on the Yale campus, both showed the same slide in their presentations. It was a depiction of the synaptic density in the human brain. And while it is tempting for me to get transfixed by the physiological components of early childhood, it is more important to remember that the development of a child is incumbent upon the loving, nurturing and stimulating environment in which they grow. For a child who does not hear language or have human contact, or have meaningful interaction with the adults in their world, their opportunity for future success is compromised. And by success I mean cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

We are incredibly blessed in this community to have parents who recognize the importance of quality early childhood programs and that their children will benefit greatly from these opportunities. Both presentations stated that there is an alarming gap in the growth and development of children as it pertains to their socio-economic circumstances. When parents read to their children, engage them in conversation, provide music and art and physical activity in a variety of venues, and PLAY with their children, the benefits are profound. For the child who does not experience these things, the synapses are pruned and the opportunity to revive them is greatly diminished if not impossible in later years. At Dr. Rauner's presentation, a questioner from the audience referenced the 30 million word gap study that was conducted by Stanford University. He wondered why the child who may not have a parent or caregiver talking to him but listens to a TV all doesn't have the same vocabulary as the child who interacts with parents and teachers. Dr. Rauner responded that it is proven that the human component - the face-to -face interaction - is what is required for language and vocabulary retention, and vital social and emotional growth.

Having heard these two similar presentations on the importance of Early Childhood Development I come back to this fact. I've said before and it bears repeating: the teachers at All Things Bright and Beautiful embody all the vital elements of best practices in Early Childhood Development. It is an honor to work with them and a joy to see the growth in the children who benefit from their passion for teaching.