Early learning – it’s everybody’s business

Abbe HensleyA movement is underway. While many Alaskans are not yet aware of it, they soon will be, as the movement bubbles to the surface in communities across the state.

Books for babies? You bet.

Businesses care whether children start school prepared to succeed? Some do and more are joining their ranks.

Right from birth, babies and young children are primed to learn. When a baby’s brain is nurtured by the adults in her world through reading, play, singing, and other forms of interaction, her brain develops in amazing ways at phenomenal speed.

Children aren’t blank slates when they start school. There’s a multitude of skills and knowledge they need if they’re to succeed. To borrow from a speech by Bill Gates, Sr., we’re not talking about 5-year-olds who can analyze the use of metaphor in Mark Twain’s lesser works. We’re talking about the basic building blocks of making sure a child is ready to learn in a school setting. Can she cooperate with other children? Can he recognize colors? Can she follow simple rules and instructions? Is he curious and eager to learn?

Preparing children for school is far more than just a family matter. Numerous studies have demonstrated an incontrovertible truth: early learning and literacy is a powerful determinant of success in school and success in life. Children who start school with a solid foundation of early learning contribute more to society. They go farther in school, they get better jobs, are far less likely to go on welfare, or go to jail.

Early learning – it’s everybody’s business.

Alaskans are getting engaged in this critically important issue. Best Beginnings is both a reflection of that engagement and an accelerator of it. Thanks to the vision of Best Beginnings’ founders and supporters, Alaska is on its way to becoming a place where all children have the opportunity to succeed in life and, in the process, build a healthy and thriving state.

Alaska will have what it needs to make sure all children are prepared for school when Alaskans expect and insist that our public and private institutions support whatever investments are needed to finance and sustain early learning and literacy.

That’s called a cultural shift. It won’t come easily and it won’t come quickly – all the more reason to stoke it through advocacy, collaboration, and plenty of drum-beating.

That is precisely the charge of Best Beginnings.

Best Beginnings has taken on an imposing amount of work since this public-private partnership got underway in late 2006. We are fully engaged and hope you’ll join with us in this critical but formidable challenge – there’s a role for every Alaskan to play.

Best,

Abbe