Written by Joan Wright, Childcare Resources’ Executive Director
We all know what time of year it is. It’s HOT. Football has returned. Labor Day has passed. Traffic has increased. The wheels on the bus are going ‘round again. School bells are ringing. All this means one thing: school’s back in session!
What a wonderful time of year. Time to get school clothes, maybe a haircut, school supplies, make new friends, continue other friendships. Time to get some knowledge!
Many of us take this time of year for granted. It’s just part of the normal routine of life. But truly this is a magical time for developing minds and bodies, especially the young, who may not even be attending the proverbial red brick school house yet but are indeed in need of gaining knowledge.
“Education is indispensible” Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent of Education, stated at a meeting recently. This means that education is not subject to being set aside nor neglected; it’s absolutely necessary.
Why? Education is the key to unlocking potential in terms of academic success, influential relationships, rewarding opportunities, better jobs, and economic vitality for individuals, families and the community.
At that same meeting, Dr. Bice shared that after numerous conversations with educators, employers, business leaders, and administrators at institutions of higher learning one issue became abundantly clear: Alabama’s high school graduates and young adults lack “intellectual curiosity.” This means they lack the quest for knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to solve today’s real world challenges.
What can be done to address this? While there is much to do that can be tackled on many fronts, we must make more serious investments of time, energy and resources in education, especially for our youngest children. Research shows over and over that children are indeed born learning and their optimal time for growth and development, especially brain development, occurs long before entering school. Children are naturally curious. They learn about and discover their world by crawling, tasting, touching, seeing, and experiencing all the sights and sounds around them. Have you ever had a conversation with a three-year-old whose response to your every statement is “But why?” If children develop a love for learning using their natural curiosity fostered by positive, nurturing relationships with caring adults, they can soar! They enter school better equipped to succeed, they tend to remain in school and graduate which opens many more possibilities for them and those around them.
In Alabama there are considerable challenges facing children and families.
The 2013 Alabama Kids Count Data Book published by VOICES for Alabama’s Children reveals that the median household income in Alabama is only $41,427. The percent of persons living below poverty is 19.1 percent with 11.4 percent of children living in extreme poverty. What effect does poverty have on children? On our community? Poverty for children means fewer opportunities for access to quality education, health, influential relationships, social services and jobs. It’s no wonder that we have such high rates of child abuse and neglect in Alabama, juvenile violent crime, addiction, overcrowded prisons, high school dropout and unemployment/underemployment. You can help change these negative outcomes. Find time today, in fact, MAKE time today to explore how you can be involved in children’s early learning and unlock a child’s potential.
In the words of Forest E. Witcraft, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”