Slowly but surely the message is getting out. Preschool teachers are professionals, they have degrees or certification or are increasing working toward those certifications, are improving the support, care and instruction they provide young children, are one of a parent's best partners in understanding how young children learn. We can see this in
- the rise of colleges listed on the U.S. CollegeSearch website which offer early childhood degrees (did you know there are now over 2,000?)
- the large number of states funding voluntary pre-K classrooms (only 12 are not providing according to NIEER and some of them like Mississippi are approaching quality early childhood education from a different angle.
- according to an article by Dr. Jean Fahey, a professor at Lesley University, and countless other experts, a child's brain is more curious and malleable during the first five years than any other time in their lives - that demands high-quality, developmentally appropriate instruction.
One of the best way I know is to have honest, constructive conversations, based on current research and best practices. Go to authorities such as NAEYC, PreK Now, and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Start a local discussion on what high-quality care of young children needs to look like in your community. Engage children's policy councils, local schools, and educational foundations. Begin to organize discussions between preschool and kindergarten teachers. Get your local PTA/PTO involved in reaching out to families who will be potential members at their school in a year or two.
With this terrific window, created because leaders have spoken up about this important issue, we have a better chance than ever to make a real difference: to turn children on to learning, prepare them well for the 21st century workplace and empower parents as their child's first and forever teacher.
Policymakers are promoting early high-quality child care, while warning of the dangers of pushing academics too early to the neglect of other developmental areas. What can we do on the "grassroots" level? There are many things. I'd love to hear your ideas.
THIS IS MY IDEA: I'm starting a FIRE!
One of my initiatives is to partner with Region IV Head Start Association in a collaboration with my company, TLA, Inc. We have joined the competition for $250,000 in grant money from the Pepsi Refresh Project.
Especially if you live in the SE states of AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC and TN, helping win this grant will have a direct impact on your Head Start classrooms. Even if you live in another part of the country, the pilot of this program could, as it proves successful, become a model for building authentic partnerships between home and school in the preschool years.
It's easy. In five minutes, you can do nearly all these; certainly in only 10 minutes' time. That's less than a coffee break to make an incredible difference! Vote now. . .
1) go to the Region IV/BIG 3 Literacy Project link and vote yourself. Mark a tickler on your calendar and bookmark the page so you can go back and add 7 votes to our totals by voting each day between now and September 30.
2) while you are on that page, capture the Widget and put it on your Facebook page, blog, or website.
3) before you leave the Pepsi Refresh page, also copy the instructions for texting in votes and share that with your friends (text 102675 to Pepsi (73774). Use the convenient "Promote This Idea" area to share the link with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin.
4) While you are in the social networking world, follow litambassador on Facebook and Twitter and "retweet" when you see us discussing the project and asking for votes. That's a great way to get more and more folks voting and sharing!
5) team up with your local Head Start staff to start a wildfire. Encourage every teacher and parent and staff person (don't forget Board Members) to do the same thing you are doing with voting and sharing.
6) get the local media involved. Head Start has great stories to tell and the excitement is contagious.
Remember we only have one week. What will you do to help spread the word? I'd love to have comments here!