By: Wendy Grove
Each Child, Our Future, Ohio’s strategic plan for education, highlights the importance of early childhood. Strategy number 8 of the plan seeks to expand quality early learning. Recently, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recognized the importance of early childhood when he proclaimed April 2019 as “Month of the Young Child” and April 8-12, 2019, as “Week of the Young Child.” In this proclamation, all Ohioans are encouraged to promote education and school readiness for our youngest citizens. This is wonderful news for those of us who work with, care for or think about how to best support children as they grow and learn. The science is clear about the first years of life and how much early experiences impact how the brain grows.
In this time, we are celebrating the state’s parents of young children. Everything you do has the potential to positively impact how ready your child is when he or she starts school. Education, indeed, starts at birth! Parents and caregivers are children’s first and most significant teachers. You may be wondering what you should expect of your child at certain ages. The state’s early childhood programs have placed information about developmental milestones and resources where you can find information in one place based on the age of your child from pregnancy to early school years. As infants and toddlers, children who have the opportunity to practice language develop it faster. Singing, talking and engaging your baby will not make you look silly; you are building your baby’s brain! Keeping your baby safe and attending to his needs helps him build a connection and attachment to you. As these videos from the Broadcast Educational Media Commission show, early literacy can happen anywhere, from parks to museums and grocery stores to home child care!
During the Month of the Young Child in Ohio, we also are celebrating educators of young children. Whether your young child spends the day at child care, staying with family or a neighbor, or is at home with mom or dad, the adult who cares for her fills a critical role in her development and learning. For early care and education outside of the familial home, the state has identified a set of quality criteria, so parents can make informed decisions about the early childhood setting. Providers of early care and education are rated between one and five stars in Step Up To Quality. Five-star rated is the highest quality rating a provider can achieve. It means the provider demonstrated it provides a healthy and safe environment, but also one with highly qualified teachers and a lower number of children per teacher. To learn more about quality providers near you, go here.
Each interaction with a young child is an opportunity to encourage, support and further develop his learning. Starting school ready to learn is important! Research has shown that starting school ready predicts later school performance. Providing opportunities to practice being active, talking, getting along with others and exploring creativity and curiosity does not have to cost money. Backyards and parks are filled with changes to learn about science. Going on errands can be a chance to develop math and literacy skills. Going where other children are will give your child the chance to learn from and teach others about being kind, sharing and getting along with others.
As we spring into April, we celebrate the most important job of parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches, librarians and adults who have the opportunity to support young children. Embrace your influence and the many opportunities there are to support early learning! The next generation of Ohioans who will enter school, and the workforce, are depending on you!
Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.
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