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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Walk the Walk...

This time of year is a good time for our Board of Directors to take stock of where we are at, in regards to our goals and values. Central to our mission as an organization is the goal of raising the awareness of the importance of early learning within our community. In a nutshell, Why do young children need to be taking part in early childhood programs and attending preschool?Why does it matter? What will they gain? What will we, as a community gain? When we look at relevant research and data it is clear that we are not where we need to be. We can do more and we are asking YOU to do more as well. If we are going to best support our community, we need your help. If you want to know how this all affects you and your children, just stick with me here for a few minutes!
So, what numbers have got us so fired up? We have talked about these numbers before; on the blog, at parent information sessions and to other concerned community members. One thing is clear. We have to talk less and do more because we are not being heard. We are not reaching the families we need to reach.

The birthrate in the City of Brooks has been an average of 386 for the last three years and even higher the three years prior. There are approximately 800 preschool aged children in Brooks & area and less than half of them are accessing preschool. This is taking into consideration BELA, the Brooks Preschool and pre-k programs in both school systems

Why does it matter that so many are not taking part in early childhood programs or experiencing any formal education until Kindergarten? Here’s why:

Data collected in the last five years in Kindergarten classes in Alberta, indicates that a higher percentage of children in our region are experiencing difficulty in one or more of the five developmental domains, than the provincial average!

32.7% of children in Brooks & Newell County are experiencing great difficulty in one or more of the 5 early learning developmental domains, supporting early childhood development.

 This is higher than the provincial average. EDMap results 2009-2014 indicate that 28.9% of children in Alberta are experiencing Great Difficulty in at least one of the 5 Developmental Domains.

To read all the data regarding our City please click here. Or you can visit the ECD Coalition website. There you can find out more about the project and the people working hard to share this information and make a difference!

We know that the early learning years (birth to age 8) are of vital importance. If children are not attending school or other early childhood programs until age 5 they are missing opportunities.  The years before age 5 last a lifetime!

 Quality early child development, learning and care have been shown to promote physical, language and motor skills; and social, emotional and cognitive development. - The Early Years Study: Three Years Later

So, What are we going to do? We are going to collaborate. We are going to work with others in our field to get our message heard and reach the families that need to hear it. We will work to educate parents about the importance of early learning. Together we will show families all the programs and people that are here to support them. We are excited to partner with BCIS & SPEC to bring this campaign, guided by the ECMap Project to life. For five weeks, starting next Friday, we are going to share some very important stories and with the help of other colleagues and organizations doing the same, we hope to reach as many people as possible. 

If you are asking yourself, or us, "why you should help?" I think I can answer that for you. The two most common concerns we hear from parents, as their child gets ready to enter Kindergarten, or regarding their older children in school are:

  • There are so many children in the class who struggle with their language and communication skills, that the teacher (and /or assistant) has to spend the majority of their time with those students. My child gets less attention than I want them to have.
  • How are teachers supposed to “teach to the average” when there is such a huge range of abilities? The children who are developing “normally”, or excelling do not get challenged enough.
If YOU want your child to have the best education then WE, as a community need to support the classroom teachers and assistants by sending them children who are ready for school! They cannot do it on their own. If you want your child to get the attention and support you desire for them, then you need to help other children in our community!!

What are we asking you to do? Talk to other parents, and grandparents! Do you know families that do not send their child to preschool or any early childhood programs? Do you tell them why you send your child and what your child has gained from it? Do you know parents who are not aware of all the programs/resources in the community? Point them in the right direction, or send them to talk to us and we will!  Share the blog. Share your stories. Start a conversation!!

Other community stakeholders; municipal government, educators, healthcare professionals; we are asking you to take action as well!  Share this information with others. Post the stats to your social media sites. Share the stories we will be sharing with you. Join the conversation!

Together we can raise awareness regarding the importance of early learning! We can change these statistics in our community and in turn change the relationship and experience our children have with their education!

- CP

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