By Shantel Meek, PhD, Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Development
Today, the White House released a video message by President Obama stressing the importance of learning and development in the earliest years of life and pledging his partnership in making sure every single child has access to adequate support, equal opportunity, and a fair shot to fulfill his or her dreams.
In particular, he discusses the “30 million word gap”– the early disparities between low- and higher- income children in the number of words they hear– and how high quality early learning experience can help us close that gap. The release of the President’s video is part of a campaign organized in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, to raise awareness of the importance of closing the word gap. Videos by Secretary Hillary Clinton, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Cindy McCain, each focused on the positive influences that the early language environment, characterized by talking, reading, and singing to babies, can have on child outcomes, were also released.
As most of you know, the beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success in school and later in life. During these years, children’s brains are developing rapidly, influenced by the richness of their experiences at home, in early learning settings, and elsewhere in the community. Unfortunately, not all children get the rich early learning experiences that facilitate school readiness and success later in life. In fact, disparities in cognitive, social, behavioral, and health outcomes, between lower-income children and their more affluent peers, are evident as early as 9 months of age and may grow over time Halle et al., 2009.
Source: The Family Room Blog, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services