Many of the social problems that are plaguing local communities can be traced to a common root – the absence of healthy structure in early childhood. A project to address some of these gaps, the Potter County Early Learning Team, was formally unveiled at last week’s meeting of the Potter County Board of Commissioners. Helene Nawrocki, the team coordinator, told Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover that the goal is “to have early education available to every child in the area.”
Almost two-thirds of preschoolers in Potter County don’t have access to any formalized education and socialization programs, she pointed out. The Early Learning Team is out to change that. It’s a coalition of business leaders, policymakers, and organizations. Goals include establishment of more preschool programs, caregiver training and public education.
Research has shown that 90 percent of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. The first few years of a child’s life are critical in determining lifelong cognitive functioning as well as behavioral, social and physical health. Children who start on the right foot are more likely to graduate from high school, stay out of jail, and become financially self-sufficient. Those without access to quality early education and effective parenting are more likely to quit school, become teen parents, develop addiction to alcohol or other drugs, suffer declining physical health, and become dependent on social services.
Preschool is just on part of the equation. Teachers, social workers and others who work with children have confirmed that the most important lessons – good or bad – are learned in the home environment. Public education activities have begun with the issuance of new releases (example below), flyers and handouts to be distributed by medical officers, public agencies, schools and others. More details will be announced.
It’s In YOUR Hands!
Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and other caregivers can help promote intellectual growth by taking a few simple steps:
- Be warm and loving. If you are stressed or tense take a few deeps breaths before picking up or talking to your baby or toddler.
- Respond to your baby’s gurgles and sounds. Mimic them back to the baby.
- Talk, sing and read to your baby or toddler. Inexpensive books can be found at the Goodwill store. Spend time with your child by visiting your local library. Ask if it has a story hour.
Anyone who would like information on programs that may be beneficial to their child is encouraged to contact the Potter County Early Learning Team by calling 814-274-4877 or by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.