Policy Resource

Baby Education Nation Gets Ready to Rumble!

Nov 18, 2012

Concerned that babies get short shrift in debates over how to produce school- and life-ready kids? Your time is coming.

Folks in Los Angeles may think they’re feeling a minor earthquake later this week as several thousand professionals devoted to promoting the healthy development of young children charge into ZERO TO THREE’s National Training Institute (NTI). There they will share knowledge about supporting early development, particularly for vulnerable children, and celebrate the amazing things babies can do in preparing to take kindergarten by storm.

Taking our cue from NBC’s recent EducationNation Summit, it occurred to us that NTI is where the Baby Education Nation gathers each year. In the large K-12 space of the Summit, the idea that school readiness starts at birth doesn’t find much room. A segment and case study of Educare on the EducationNation website did highlight how high quality services support early development. But despite the fact that important brain development takes place during the first three years and many vulnerable babies fall behind during that period, babies still don’t pull much weight in the big kid education world. At NTI, babies are front and center in discussions about development and learning, and giving all children the best possible start in life is a subject that excites much passion.

It’s always tricky to talk about infants and toddlers in connection with school readiness. For some people, it conjures up images of flash cards and alphabet charts, with colorful blocks banished to a storage bin. In reality, school readiness means developing the secure relationships and laying the social-emotional foundations that, years later, lead to confident children who can relate to and communicate with teachers and peers, concentrate on tasks, and persist when challenges present themselves. To foster school readiness, bring back the building blocks, make way for baby explorers, and recognize that babies who chew on a book are learning that books offer a positive, rewarding experience.

At NTI, you won’t find sessions on baby academics. Rather, you will find presentations on such topics as supporting social-emotional development; toddlers and problem solving; early intervention for NICU grads; relationship-based professional development; addressing trauma in child welfare settings; home visiting; early brain development; community systems building; accessing high quality child care—the list goes on and on.

We’ll even have a Hollywood glow as the opening plenary features Rob and Michele Reiner presenting the first Reiner Award for Advocacy on Behalf of Young Children. ZERO TO THREE established the award to honor the Reiners’ remarkable leadership on behalf of babies and toddlers. The award will be presented to Robert Dugger, co-founder of the group ReadyNation.

Even if you’re not attending NTI, you can still be part of the Baby Education Nation. Here’s how:

  1. Watch the NTI live stream on Thursday, November 29. Check out the program and register here.

  2. Mobile-ize for Babies! Answer our poll about what you think the President and other elected officials should focus on in the first 100 days of the New Year.

  3. Call Congress during a National Call-In Day this Wednesday, November 28. Urge them to protect programs for young children in budget deficit negotiations. Watch for our alert tomorrow with details. To receive alerts, join the ZERO TO THREE Policy Network.

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