In celebration of our 15 years, we are sharing 15 stories of gratitude from those whose lives have been touched in some way by Best Beginnings throughout the next few months. Check back frequently for new stories!
We hope you enjoy this look back at just a sliver of the stories we’ve created together. Have a story to share? Send us an email at or submit your own story here.
Al Bolea – founding member of the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force
I was a member of the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force. During one of the task force meetings a consultant presented the “neuroscience of learning”. I can remember seeing the brain scans (MRIs) of young children who had strong learning capabilities and those who were more challenged. I had not seen images of neurons and synapses before. The stronger learners’ brain scans were densely populated with synaptic circuitry while the circuitry of the challenged learners was sparce and disjointed. Fifteen years later, the consultant’s words still echo through my consciousness, “If a child has not developed the capacity to learn by age three, they will fall behind intellectually throughout their life”. It was explained that the key to this development was the frequency and quality of conversational engagement with adults, and reading to a child and having them read was the surest way to achieve high development.
Over the ensuing years I researched extensively about brain development, and I shared the learning with nearly everyone who would listen to me. I started with my three children who are now parents. My wife and I bought our five grandchildren all sorts of books from their infant years to their current grade school levels. I shifted careers and became a university professor and a corporate leadership trainer. Several thousands of students and clients have heard me speak about the neuroscience of learning – and they know the story about my passion starting with the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force. I have even written three leadership books, all laced with the neuroscience of learning. University students and professionals use my books to aid their development as leaders. Who would have ever thought that my life, and the thousands I have touched, would be so enriched by the task force experience?
Stephanie Berglund – thread
What a joy it has been to watch the amazing work and growth of Best Beginnings. Early on, I was proud to be part of the advisory group shaping the future opportunities of the organization and how the Ready to Read recommendations could take shape. thread has been working with Best Beginnings from the very beginning with focus around creating Learn & Grow, Alaska’s Quality Recognition and Improvement System. Before it was named Learn & Grow, Best Beginnings laid the groundwork for planning and advocacy around developing quality standards in early childhood in Alaska. Additionally, thread was proud to partner in support of launching the Anchorage Imagination Library as its first fiscal sponsor. Wow, how it’s all grown!
How lucky Alaska is to have a great organization like Best Beginnings. Best Beginnings has been a leader in advocacy and supporting public private partnerships and ventures to advance early care and learning throughout the state. The organization has been lucky to have the amazing leadership of Abbe Hensley leading efforts for greater investments in early childhood education. Abbe has led many of the education efforts to strengthen policy makers understanding of brain development, has helped us all better understand the linkages of early literacy to school success and has been a key leader in the work of the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council and Alaska Early Childhood Advocacy Group. thread is proud to partner with Best Beginnings and celebrates this special birthday!
Cheers, Stephanie Berglund, CEO on behalf of all at thread
Mollie Hightower – Imagination Library Parent
As a parent of four, I’ve read a lot of children’s books. I probably read to one kid or other every night for thirteen years straight. Sometimes they fell asleep mid-book, sometimes I did. Sometimes I’d be startled in the middle of the night by the noise of a stack of books sliding off a kid’s top bunk onto the floor. Books were always around, and a lot of the favorites were from the Imagination Library. Owl Moon, Last Stop on Market Street, Pretend, Coat of Many Colors were regulars in rotation.
My children are older now, reading long books to themselves, and we only occasionally read a book out loud. But now, when my niece comes over, we dig out the picture books and she experiences the Imagination Library books my kids loved to discover in the mail. Now, she hears not only the great stories in the books, but the add on stories of which cousin used to love which book and who added to the artwork with crayons. The Imagination Library books are still going strong at my house!
Check back for more stories – coming soon!