Everyone knows that if you get a running start, you jump much farther than if you start standing still. Babies will gain the biggest benefit if given an early start.
Making sure kids are ready for school also benefits from a running start and the place to begin is at birth. It’s the earliest opportunity a child has to connect with mom and dad and begin developing the skills they will need throughout life. Research shows that providing guidance and resources to families from birth and into the first three years of a child’s life has a lasting impact. Stacey, a mom in our Early Head Start (EHS) program, learned this for her son, TJ. Together with their Advocate, Karissa, Stacey and TJ received the tools they needed to prepare TJ for school.
“Karissa helped us in so many ways,” Stacey said. “Not only did she help me, she also taught TJ so much. He has progressed so much through this program and it has helped us as a family. We have learned that not only can the Advocates teach him, but we can be his teachers too!”
It started with Karissa gaining the family’s trust. She then gained a deeper understanding of their needs. During visits with Stacey and TJ’s dad, Karissa showed them how to teach TJ using ordinary objects already in the home to help him recognize letters, numbers and colors. She also provided diapers, connected the parents to community resources and advised them on proper discipline.
TJ and his family learned what the research tells us: during the first three years of life, the brain undergoes dramatic development as the child gains the ability to think, speak, learn and reason.[i] Stacey explained, “I’ve learned that it takes a lot to teach our children and prepare them for new transitions in their lives and prepare them for the world.”
“Early parent engagement is the true cornerstone of a child’s growth and development. This approach reaps rewards for years to come,” noted JoAnne Fischer, MCC’s Executive Director.
For Stacey’s family and many more families like hers, we are excited to join the citywide plan to improve school readiness through a Running Start Philadelphia. As Mayor Michael Nutter stressed: “Investment must start early. Studies show that the achievement gap starts as early as 18 months.”
Currently, MCC offers EHS services in the home and in child care centers in South Philadelphia, Norristown and Pottstown. Through our work with community partners and support from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Learning, we are excited to announce we are increasing the number of families who will benefit from our EHS program through expansion in Montgomery and Bucks counties. We continue to ensure that families are strengthened and ready to embark on a journey of lifelong learning.
[i] National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Jack Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips, eds. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.