Learning begins early

Inquirer Editorial Board

July 10, 2015

It’s easier today for parents to gauge the development of a young child. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even put out a checklist of development stages that parents can download to make comparisons (cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones).

At 2 months, a baby should be paying attention to faces and following objects with her eyes. At a year, she should be repeating words and following simple directions. By 3, she should be able to carry on simple conversations and solve three-piece puzzles. At 5, she should be able to count to 10 and print some letters and numbers.

Of course, that’s in general. Children develop differently for different reasons, with poverty being a major factor. Social scientists say poor children often live in environments that can impede development of the simple skills and circuits formed in the brain during early childhood, which provide the foundation for complex learning later.

Statistics show poor children enter school well behind their more affluent classmates and typically continue to lose ground academically from that point on. Some research also suggests that the younger the child, the greater the impact of growing up in poverty and being deprived of a nurturing environment that encourages learning.

That underscores the importance of a new program, “A Running Start Philadelphia,” whose goal is to provide high-quality early-learning opportunities for every Philadelphia child from birth to age 5. The initiative is part of Shared Prosperity Philadelphia, the antipoverty program Mayor Nutter started two years ago.

For the full article, click here.

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