Literacy – A Miracle
Those who believe in the sanctity of the fetus would be far more convincing if they included the miracle of a baby seeking knowledge. We have understood the importance of pre-k brain development for many years, but we deny adequate funding for programs that teach parents and caretakers how to encourage this brain development with infants and toddlers. Many of our fellow citizens are bringing infants into the world without the parenting skills that they need, nor the money necessary to pay trained caretakers who could seize this opportunity to encourage infant and toddler learning. The larger public does not take the time to understand that 90% of brain development occurs before 5th year of age. Nor do they understand the plight of our families today who try to find multiple part-time jobs to pay for child care, food, health care and housing.
Last winter in Washington Park, New Orleans, I met a toddler, who wanted to touch my dog, but was too scared to do so. Instead he pointed at her saying “dat”, looking at me for a response. “Dog, would you like to pat her?” I asked. Turning his head, and looking at a tree he said, “dat”. “Tree,” I responded and he gave a slight nod. He pointed at one object after another, and back at my dog. His pointing and my naming continued for a few minutes. His father had settled on his haunches to watch. I ended the conversation by saying “ I must go along with my dog now,”
and saying to the father “you have a very bright child”. When I got home, I realized that the toddler had made my day, but did not know why. I learned later on – in May.
“I grow old ever learning more”, my husband said quoting the Greek philosopher Solon. On May 15 this year, I attended a meeting in Massachusetts entitled “The Journey to Literacy Begins at Birth”. I learned that when an infant or toddler points s/he is searching for and learning words, and attempting to communicate with a person. I didn’t know about early learning when I was a young parent. I am gaining that understanding as a grandparent. The toddler in the park reached out to me for a response that I was glad to give. This special communication is a miracle, and that’s what made me feel great.
Literacy is one of many miracles that begins at birth. Infants watch the behavior of adults around them. I remember when my granddaughter, not yet 3 months old, was lying in her chair on the kitchen table. Her mother and I were chatting
and laughing, and we heard a first-time baby laugh. My granddaughter was making a social connection with the adults around her. The miracle is that an infant observes adult behavior far more than we recognize, and may try to join in. By watching they learn about joy and relaxation, but also anger, frustration, fear and more.
While learning occurs throughout life as my husband said, more neural connections are developed in the brain in the first 5 years of life than ever again. The brains of Pre-K children are more flexible and adaptable. When learning is delayed to later years, much more effort and skill is required from both teacher and student, and education becomes more costly and time consuming.
Why are we cutting funds for programs that improve the cognitive development of Pre-K children when this investment would improve opportunities?