Education starts at birth, so get that young brain to work early, says experts

Preparing a child for school doesn’t start at age three, or five or seven. Ideally, it begins at birth. That’s only one of the messages parents learned at a recent Parent Summit, held at Kyrene Middle School.
The session covered a wide range of subjects, such as early childhood brain science, Internet safety, middle school preparation and teen drug trends, among others.
Kyrene Superintendent David Schauer, Ed.D., spoke to the approximately 150 parents and students who gathered for a quick dinner before the parents headed off to information sessions focused on particular issues.
“We are living in a complicated world with huge challenges,” Schauer said. “We need all the help we can get.”
At the “Getting the Brain Ready for Kindergarten” session, Conrad Lindo from First Things First provided resources and information for parents. (First Things First is a statewide program funded by a voter-enacted tobacco tax that supports the development, health and early education of Arizona’s children birth through age five).
Lindo informed parents that 90 percent of a child’s critical brain development happens by age 5. In the first few years of life, every second produces 700 new neural connections.
“That’s why it’s so important to engage your child in learning opportunities at any opportunity,” Lindo said. “The stakes are increasingly high for your children, especially now. By third grade, they must be reading at grade level.”
Lindo said babies and young children need stimulation to develop socially, emotionally and intellectually. Practical suggestions for busy parents of children under age 5 from First Things First include:
Become an advocate for play. Play provides a strong foundation for intellectual growth, creativity and problem solving.
Provide the resources for stimulating play. Not just toys, but varied objects.
Join in the fun, but let your child take the lead.
Encourage children to use their imagination.
Provide frequent invitations to engage with adults. This “serve and return” process
is fundamental to the wiring of the brain, especially in the early years.
Activities like these will help a child start school ready to learn, making it more likely the child will learn to read at grade level by third grade. Studies show that if children can read by third grade, it’s more likely they will graduate from high school and go on to higher education.
Kyrene parent Veronica Acheampong of Chandler found the session informative.
“He (Lindo) provided a lot of good resources,” said Acheampong, whose children are ages 3 and 9. “I just want to make sure I have all the tools I need.”
That’s exactly what Lindo wants to hear. Along with tips for healthy brain development, he provided links to information on where to turn if you suspect a child’s development is delayed.
“This is important for all Arizona parents,” Lindo said. “Parents are the first and best teachers for their children. Our job is to find support and advocate for them. By the time they are in kindergarten, we want them healthy and ready to learn.”
More information on Building Better Brains can be found at
Lindo recommended a special “Birth to Five Helpline,” created and managed by Southwest Human Development. Call 1-877-705-KIDS, where child development specialists are available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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