Office of Science and Technology Policy Spotlights the Importance of Early Literacy

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was written by Child Care Aware of America staff member Michelle McCready. Michelle is our Director of Public Policy, a working mother to her young son, Aiden, and a dedicated advocate for child care policy.

Yesterday Child Care Aware of America joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to highlight early literacy challenges and successes in communities across the country and share best practices and lessons learned. The word gap refers to children in low income communities starting school with 30 million less words  than their peers of higher socioeconomic status. The day consisted of advocates, led by Too Small to Fail, alongside top researchers and scientists, as well as federal and local policymakers, discussing the importance of creating a strong literacy foundation for all children.

Panelists

This strong literacy foundation helps prepare students for kindergarten and  sets children up for better outcomes throughout their life. This foundation also supports a workforce needed to compete in the global economy and create a prosperous future for generations to come. In the first three years of life early language and rich literacy experiences are especially important. As research has proven, the brain undergoes its most dramatic development during this time as children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. As a mother of a 19 month-old son, I get to witness this dramatic development every day. On our ride home from child care, I talk, read, and sing with him and see how his vocabulary is exponentially blossoming.

But it’s not just my son. On a typical day more than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in the care of someone other than their mother. About one-quarter of these children are in multiple child care arrangements. In these settings, children are naturally communicating with their caregivers on what they think, feel and are experiencing. This “conversational duet” not only promotes language skills, but also critical thinking skills, and strong social and emotional development.

Speaking and honoring home language is also critical.  Children  need to have lots of fun and meaningful chances to talk, read, and pretend-write in their home language. Each of the opportunities to interact build skills that will help all children be prepared for a successful life.

Make sure to visit ChildCareAware.org to get more information on how you and your child’s caregiver can best build your child’s early reading and writing skills. A call to your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) can give you additional information about literacy resources.

Also, make sure to check out what some of our coalition partners are doing: Too Small to Fail’s Talk, Read, Sing Campaign http://talkreadsing.org/. And ZERO TO THREE’s new web portal, Beyond the Word Gap http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/beyond-the-word-gap/, which offers multimedia resources to help parents, professionals, and policymakers to support early language and literacy.

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Parents and the high cost of child care: A Report

Cost of Care graphicChild care is unaffordable for many families. The costs leave children in questionable environments that can have long-term consequences for them and for our nation’s future.

We explore and analyze these costs in our annual report, released today, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report. The report lays out the cost of child care by state, region and age ranges and explores why child care is so expensive as well as recommendations to improve child care in the United States.

This is our seventh report on the cost of child care, and while the story has not changed, the need for change has. Here’s why:

Child care influences early development.
Breakthrough research tells us the early years are a unique period of development and that early experiences form the foundation for future success.

Child care is early education.
Children who start kindergarten behind too often stay behind. Among children who arrive at school without the skills needed for success, over 85 percent are still behind in 4th grade.

Child care is a national security imperative.
Fully 75 percent of 18-year-olds are not qualified to serve their country through military service. To address this national security issue, military leaders have identified the need for quality early care and education for all children as a top priority to ensure children get off to the right start.

Child care is an economic imperative.
Dr. James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and professor of economics at the University of Chicago concluded after decades of research on labor economics:

“The real question is how to use available funds wisely. The best evidence supports the policy prescription: Invest in the very young.”

We recognize this report asks difficult questions about child care. But ask them we must: How can quality child care be made affordable for all families? What can we do as a national community to invest in the 11 million children who may need child care programs? This report will help inform the important conversations ahead.

Visit www.usa.childcareaware.org/costofcare to view the full report, Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2013 Report.

We thank the Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies who provide data to build this report. Without their support, this publication would not be possible. Learn more about CCR&Rs.