We have all heard the term “formative years,” but it is easy to overlook or underestimate just how much is being formed and shaped early in a young child’s life. The White House, as support for the President’s early-learning agenda, notes that “Research has shown that the early years in a child’s life—when the human brain is forming—represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school and in life.”
The National Association for the Education of Young Children describes itself as “the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children.” The organization reports that a recent national voter poll shows significant bipartisan support for early childhood education investments. For example, “86% of respondents say that ensuring children get a good start in life is an important national priority; second only to increasing jobs and economic growth,” and “70% say we should be doing more to ensure that children begin kindergarten with the proper knowledge and skills to succeed.”
One of the easiest, most important, highest-payoff things parents can do for their little ones is read to them. The Paradise Valley Unified School District, including Scottsdale/Phoenix, AZ, promotes that it is “cultivating world-class thinkers.” The district has published a brief paper on its website, titled, "The Importance of Reading to Children." Citing the 2007 research of Russ et. al, the paper even suggests that “Research has shown that the single most important thing that a parent can do to help their child acquire language, prepare their child for school, and instill a love of learning in their child, is to read to them.” It also notes additional research showing that “up to one third of children entering kindergarten are underprepared to learn” and that a first grader who is a poor reader will generally remain a poor reader.
Yes, school districts face ongoing challenges in adequately preparing and educating young children. However, giving kids a great start with reading, language skills, and overall learning can be as easy as regularly picking up and sharing a book appropriate for their age level and interests. Visit your local library. Also consider what a great return-on-investment purchased books deliver. Explore chunky board books for toddlers and sequenced story books, either digital or traditional, for older preschoolers. A book (or more) a day builds a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.