With the first day of school starting soon, parents, educators, and the community are preparing children for the next year that lies ahead. During this prep time of buying supplies, organizing schedules, and meeting teachers, we are in a constant state of thinking about how we can prepare our children for school.
In reality, the most important prep work for school happens during the first five years of a child’s life. These first 5 years are the most critical time of development. In fact, scientists now know that 90% of the brain is developed by age 5. These years are when the architecture of the brain is built. Just like when we construct a building, a strong foundation is needed for future success.
Mary Black Foundation’s Investment in Early Childhood Development
The Mary Black Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation that invests in people and communities for improved health, wellness, and success in Spartanburg County. The Foundation has two priority areas – Healthy Eating and Active Living and Early Childhood Development.
As the Chair of the Mary Black Foundation, I have come to learn about the importance of early childhood development. The Foundation focuses on early childhood development because it is one of the strongest and most strategic investments a community can make for its future competitiveness and vitality. We all know that human development is economic development and our greatest resource is our people.
According to the latest Early Development Instrument (EDI) data, only 47% of kids in Spartanburg County enter kindergarten ready to learn. While we are thinking about how we can prepare our own child(ren) for the school year ahead, we need to also think about how, as a community, we are going to support every family to ensure their children are ready to learn.
Many groups in Spartanburg – the Chamber of Commerce, Spartanburg Academic Movement, United Way of the Piedmont, and The Spartanburg County Foundation for example – are working to improve educational and economic outcomes for our residents. The achievement gap and gaps in economic mobility open early and are difficult and costly to address. Fortunately, data shows that when investments are made in early childhood development achievement gaps can be prevented and better outcomes are achieved.
As a community, it is important that we understand the critical development time of the early years. While the Foundation and other funders have made investments and improvements in early childhood development, there is still more work to be done. Investing in high quality learning centers is just a start. A lot of the work begins in the home, and it is up to us all to ensure that every Spartanburg household has what it needs to support the healthy development of young children.
The Spartanburg Basics is one such program that helps support the early development of young children, primarily from birth to age three years. “The Basics” outlines five simple principles that every parent can use to nurture optimal brain development for future kindergarten and life-long success: 1. Maximize Love, Manage Stress, 2. Talk, Sing, and Point, 3. Count, Group, and Compare, 4. Explore through Movement and Play, and 5. Read and Discuss Stories.
I hope by sharing this information that you will think about how you – as a member of our community – can make our youngest residents’ early education and development a priority. Investing in early childhood will reap benefits for years and years to come.