Professional Resource

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BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: John Love

"ZERO TO THREE has three especially important qualities that have meant the most to me: Being proactive... Standing for quality... Policy and advocacy..."

Editor’s Note: We’ve invited ZERO TO THREE Board Member, John Love, to share his perspectives and reflections with you. Dr. Love has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2011 and will be ending his tenure next year. You can learn more about his lifetime of professional contributions to early care and education research, program evaluation, and policy on his bio page on the ZERO TO THREE website. Dear ZERO TO THREE members,

As I begin my 9th and final year on your Board of Directors, I am pleased to respond to the invitation to tell you a bit about me and my experience as a board member. I’ve chosen three questions to respond to.

What has it meant to you to a be a member of ZERO TO THREE’s Board of Directors?

About 3 months after I retired from Mathematica Policy Research, [ZERO TO THREE Executive Director] Matthew and I happened to be sitting together at lunch at a New York University conference. I was floored—but honored—when he broached the subject of serving on the board. My diverse interactions with ZERO TO THREE board members and staff these past 8 years have been the highlight of my “retirement.” I had always admired ZERO TO THREE from a distance, mainly in connection with its role with Early Head Start while I was working on the national evaluation, and now I’ve felt a part of something bigger than any one of us.

ZERO TO THREE has three especially important qualities that have meant the most to me:

• Being proactive. This organization is on the forefront of just about every major issue that faces our society and our families with the most vulnerable children—the babies. Early Head Start, child care, court teams, HealthySteps, and the many, many initiatives, programs, and services ZERO TO THREE offers.

• Standing for quality. I know first-hand, seeing many of ZERO TO THREE’s programs from the perspective of an insider, and working directly with staff on several of ZERO TO THREE’s most important programs, that the training, the support, the materials, the advice and services are top-notch, closely monitored, and of the highest quality. If ZERO TO THREE is doing it, you can be confident it is done to the highest professional standards.

• Policy and advocacy. ZERO TO THREE’s policy center advocates for federal and state policies that will provide the most important supports for the babies. I was honored to witness this directly by participating in my favorite ZERO TO THREE event, Strolling Thunder, which is having its third iteration this spring. I’ve seen low-income parents of babies speak far more eloquently and with more weight than I could in talking with their Congresspersons and Senators. I’ve seen how ZERO TO THREE staff make a huge difference through the way they support the families from all across the country who participate in Strolling Thunder.

As you observe the world around you, what is an issue affecting young children and their families that concerns you? How do you think ZERO TO THREE can help?

It is challenging to name a single important issue, because so many are absolutely crucial. But I think equity stands out in the sense that it underlies or affects so many other issues. We know that the trauma and stress of living in poverty profoundly affect development. With this inequitable beginning, children go on to be behind in language and literacy, and they have increased challenges in being ready for kindergarten, even with the best preschools. And there is inequity in the accessibility and quality of much-needed child care—care that benefits both the children and the parents. Growing up in poverty also affects families’ access to good and consistent health care. ZERO TO THREE provides incredible supports for these families, but we can’t do everything. Somehow our society needs to dig deep into the root causes of poverty in this nation before the consequences of this basic inequity and all its associated inequities have any chance of being resolved. I am forever grateful that ZERO TO THREE is doing its part, and more.

What is something that ZERO TO THREE members, staff, and even other Board Members might be surprised to know about you?

With a career spanning more than 40 years, from 1966 to 2010, when I officially retired from Mathematica Policy Research, I had the opportunity to work in diverse settings, from teaching undergraduates at Colorado Women’s College in the late 1960s, to working with Dave Weikart at HighScope throughout the 1970s, to my 18 years at Mathematica. I want to describe two experiences few of my current friends and colleagues know about.

When I was teaching in Denver, one of my students was Cleo Parker, who had a joint major in psychology and dance. (She also babysat our first daughter.) For her senior seminar, Cleo carried out a study of preschool children’s understanding of English language grammatical structures. Together we shaped her senior paper into an article that was published in Child Development in 1971, the first peer-reviewed publication of my career. But even more interesting is that, after graduating and marrying Tom Robinson, she founded Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, now a world-renowned company that “leverages the universal language of dance to honor African American heritage, explore the human condition, and offer a transformative experience through physical movement.” My wife and I toured her studio and had dinner with Cleo and Tom after the Denver ZERO TO THREE national conference. She and her company are phenomenal.

In the mid- to late-1980s, state and federal governments were funding very little in the way of early childhood research and evaluation. At the time, I was working with RMC Research Corporation in New Hampshire, and we had a contract with the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE). CSDE had just begun a new program for certifying teachers called the Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program. I worked with a team of researchers, teachers, school administrators, and CSDE curriculum and research staff to develop a process for performance-based certification that involved observing beginning teachers in actual classroom settings, from kindergarten through 12th grade. It was a fascinating experience that required collaboration among researchers and practitioners. I learned much that stayed with me the rest of my career.

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