Science, Babies, and Families – a Winning Combination

You’ve probably heard people say babies are like blank slates, just waiting to be filled up with knowledge. I thought that, too, until our first baby was born. It became pretty obvious quite soon that this tiny creature was already making a big impact on her world. We were at her beck and call – meeting her needs when she let us know she was hungry, wet, tired, or ready for cuddles and playful Learn More »

The connection between early literacy and incarceration

The rumor was false but the connection was real. In our guest blog, educator Stan Lujan tackles the connection between Alaskans in prison and literacy. As Stan notes in his testimony to the House Finance Committee, prison planners do not look to reading scores to predict how many prison beds they’ll need. But the connection is stark. Editor’s note: In testimony to the Alaska House Finance Learn More »

Where we are

As many Alaskans know, Best Beginnings took a major body blow with a 66 percent reduction in state funding for the fiscal year that began July 1. For the current year, Best Beginnings is receiving $320,000 from the state, down more than $600,000 from previous years. Best Beginnings is tackling the challenge in several ways, among them: We changed how we support Early Childhood Partnerships. Learn More »

Pediatricians’ Rx for new parents: Read to your baby.

It was great news recently, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced it is asking its 62,000 members to urge parents to read to their children as soon as they’re born. For the first time, the AAP will promote early literacy—beginning from an infant's very first days—as an “essential” component of primary care visits. From a pediatrician’s point of view, early out-loud reading is Learn More »

It’s everywhere…and in more ways than one

I’ve been watching our four 3-year-old grandchildren demonstrate STEM skills. They turned over rocks to look for worms and found “creatures” hiding in puddles at Kincaid Beach. They planned and built Lego spaceships and tall towers and knocked them apart to see how the pieces would fall. They passed along my iPad when the timer went off and signaled the end of their turn. They counted the number Learn More »

We must change it!

Recently I learned this heartbreaking 2012 statistic: 47% of Alaska children with substantiated reports of harm were under the age of 6. These are our youngest and most vulnerable precious children. More than a million children in America experience child maltreatment each year – Alaska has among the highest per capita rates of child abuse and neglect in the country. Since 1983, April has Learn More »

Hectic lives

“Hectic” is how many young parents I know describe their everyday lives. Yet they really want to spend time with their young children and help those brains grow. Over the years, as a parent and now a grandparent, I’ve learned a few tricks. Busy times often present wonderful opportunities for your child to explore the world around him. The more that's going on around you, the more there is to Learn More »

Why the 30 million word gap is so important

Our words count. In more ways than many of us ever realized. It’s been 18 years since Betty Hart and Todd Risley published their landmark study on the giant gap – 30 million – in words heard by young children depending on their socio-economic status. In the last six months, we’ve seen an explosion of new interest in the topic, thanks in part to a recently published study out of Stanford, which Learn More »

Attendance matters, even in child care

If somebody asks whether showing up for work every day makes a difference in how well someone does his job, you’d probably think, “Of course it does.” We have the same response about students’ attendance at school. To mark September as the first-ever Attendance Awareness Month, Debi Baldwin (a Best Beginnings board member and director of the Child Development Division at RurAL CAP) and I Learn More »

Our role in Imagination Library: Something quite different

You might be surprised to learn that Best Beginnings doesn’t enroll a single child in Imagination Library. Yet through Best Beginnings and our generous supporters, 20,772 children – 38.5% of all Alaska children under 5 – are now receiving a book every month through their local Imagination library. So what exactly do we do? We help. We support the local volunteers who spend the time, enroll Learn More »

New statistic raises important questions

All Alaska children begin school ready to succeed – that’s Best Beginnings’ vision. But how do we know if they are “ready to succeed”? Here’s a startling new statistic. Fewer than 20 percent of children entering kindergarten in Alaska are prepared in all the ways experts say is important for success in school. That’s according to figures recently provided by the Alaska Department of Education Learn More »

Our Voices Count

Talk about a frenetic time. When the House Finance Subcommittee on Education unexpectedly reduced funding for Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers, people who believe in what we’re doing came out of the woodwork to share their stories. We won’t have a final answer on funding for early learning until the operating budget is approved. But I’m optimistic. What we’re doing works and lots of Learn More »

New Year’s Resolutions

Who can resist New Year’s resolutions? I certainly can’t. So here are a few of mine: Give a “pat on the back” through a friendly nod or smile when I see parents interacting with their young children in positive ways. Encourage my own grown children (parents themselves) and other young parents I know to keep their babies on track through talking, responding, asking questions, connecting, Learn More »

Welcome new board members

Building a strong organization capable of catalyzing support for early childhood takes committed leadership. It’s my pleasure to let you know the following people were recently elected to the Best Beginnings Board of Directors: Gara Bridwell, a professor of early childhood education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Lorie Morris, chief executive officer at Alaska Baptist Family Learn More »

Baby brains and ping-pong

How many times have you heard a baby described as a thirsty sponge or a blank slate? The problem with these analogies is that they downplay the active role parents and other adults have in helping a baby develop into the happiest, healthiest, smartest person she can be. Babies are born with billions of neurons. Their brains grow through connections that form between the neurons – 700 per second Learn More »

Early childhood priorities fare well in state budget

I’m very pleased to report that Alaska’s governor and legislators took great steps toward promoting school readiness by appropriating more funds this year to support young children and their families. Their growing awareness of the importance of these investments is due in large part to the efforts of many individuals, early childhood experts, and organizations around the state. The State of Learn More »

When Kindergarten looms

For parents with children of a certain age, summer means one thing: kindergarten looms. I identify all too well, since our two older grandsons will start kindergarten this fall. There are lots of resources available, but the sheer volume – and, let’s face it, the “academic-speak” in which much of the materials is written – can be off-putting. Where does the parent with a kindergarten-bound Learn More »

Best Beginnings makes waves

I confess. I’m going to boast about Best Beginnings. I prefer to think of it as simply relating how the work we’re doing with friends, allies, and partners is attracting notice, nationally and around the world. Most recently, I received an e-mail from Tom, a Londoner who had seen an article in the "Bristol Bay Times" about Babies on Track. He followed the article to our link, saw the trailer, Learn More »

Look back at 2011

Before plunging into the New Year, I thought I’d take a glance back at 2011. And what I saw prompted a double-take. Wow. Here’s a sampling: Founders Lunch – In early March, Best Beginnings held a Founders & Friends lunch in Anchorage. Our purpose was to thank our longtime supporters, welcome newer friends, and give everyone a snapshot of how far we’ve come in just over four years. We didn’t Learn More »

Ready for school, revisited

I participated recently in a workshop at the Association of Alaska School Boards conference. The topic was school readiness. I asked the school board members how they would define “ready for kindergarten.” People’s response to this question typically includes skills such as knowing the names and sounds of letters; knowing numbers, shapes, and colors; being able to count; demonstrating physical Learn More »