On Saturday, longtime Thrive by Five Washington board member Jackie Bezos launched a movement to build an early learning nation by 2025, and quickly won the support of leaders who will help drive the effort: U.S. mayors.
At their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, mayors unanimously endorsed a resolution supporting the community-led Early Learning Nation 2025 initiative to make high-quality early education a first priority for children born between 2010 and 2015. They are known as the Alpha Generation and are expected be the most formally educated in history.
The mayors’ endorsement is the first major step in an effort designed to engage entire communities — everyone from teachers to doctors to business owners — in creating unparalleled early learning experiences from birth through age five that set up children to succeed.
“We all play a role in creating communities that prioritize making sure every child gets a great start. What does this look like? A nail salon or barber shop can be a gathering place for parents. A cashier can offer a word of encouragement to a parent. A pediatrician can talk with parents about how they can help shape their child’s brain. A restaurant can put something in their window, or on their table tops,” Bezos said.
An Early Learning Nation just might be possible. In the last week alone, the country took major steps toward that goal. Too Small to Fail, for example, joined forces with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Scholastic Inc. and Reach Out and Read to promote early literacy, including making it a key component of pediatrician visits. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added a section to their website dedicated to resources and support for families with children 2-4 years old.
While the Bezos Family Foundation was the catalyst for Early Learning Nation it is a collective effort that will be driven by communities. To help communities, the movement provides a step-by-step plan — complete with examples of successful work around the country — for creating high-quality early learning experiences. It has everything from developing a coordinated early learning planning group to activating a plan, and includes the Seattle City Council’s work to create a universal and voluntary pre-kindergarten program.
The reasons to act are clear. A well-designed early learning system:
- Reduces special education placements and grade retention
- Increases graduation rates
- Reduces teen pregnancy rates, violent crime, juvenile delinquency and incarceration
- Increases odds of long-term employment
— Early Learning Nation 2025.
Now that the nation’s mayors have endorsed the plan, a leadership group will define the upcoming work. In the coming months, Early Learning Nation will sign up other civic leaders to commit to a community-centered culture shift that puts babies to preschoolers first.
What big or small steps will you take to help create an Early Learning Nation?