This is the first in a series of articles on early childhood development that Fredericksburg Parent and Family and Smart Beginnings will be presenting in 2014. Educated parents and engaged community leaders have the power to head off potentially negative outcomes for area children. Research shows just paying attention to kids aged 0 -5 positively impacts kids' (and our community's) entire future. Over the next 12 months, we'll show you how.
Poverty can be a crushing blow in the education of underprivileged children.
In a Washington University School of Medicine study to measure poverty's impact on brain development, 145 low-income children from preschool to adolescence were discovered to have stunted growth in the hippocampal region of the brain—the part of the brain that controls memory and emotional processing.
The findings also indicate that nurturing caregivers—independent of income—offer an important buffer for children exposed to early childhood stress and trauma.
"From a public health perspective, this is really something that policy makers ought to look at," says Dr. Bella Sood, division chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. "How do we protect young kids by putting in ways that parents can learn how to parent better? These are the low hanging fruits of prevention because they have such far reaching effects on the developing brain."
Sara Branner, executive director of Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area (SBRA) believes that "strong, positive relationships between children and their caregivers is a leading protective factor for children––a critical component of healthy development."
To help parents make informed choices about childcare providers and preschools, SBRA mentors area programs interested in participating in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative (VSQI). VSQI is a statewide system that uses a star rating to highlight a provider's commitment to excellence in early care and education.
Freelance journalist, Christa Melnyk Hines, is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom's Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.
In a 1997 study published by HighScope Educational Research Foundation, children living in poverty and at high risk of school failure were more socially adjusted later in life if they attended a play-oriented preschool compared to kids who went to an instruction driven preschool.
The study found that by age 23, one third of the children who attended instruction centered preschools had been arrested for a felony compared to less than one-tenth of the kids who attended play-oriented preschools.
Information sourced from Melinda Wenner Moyer's article "The Serious Need for Play" in the winter 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind.