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We Can Help Every Child Get a Strong Start by Exercising Their Brain

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February 7, 2018

There are major learning gaps in California schools that have not closed significantly in over a decade.

Really well-meaning and good-hearted people have been trying hard to close those gaps in all of those settings, and they have failed.

Current evidence reveals why they have failed. Powerful and useful new brain science now teaches us we need to make children ready and able to learn at fifteen months, rather than fifteen years.

New science from Harvard, UCLA, Columbia, and other research organizations tells us the first three years of life are when billions of neurons connect in each child’s brain — and well exercised brains in those first months and years become stronger.

Physical exercise builds strong bodies. Brain exercise builds strong brains.

Parents need to know the specific brain exercise each child needs. Simply talking directly to children in those first months and years connects billions of neurons in the brain. Reading to children also exercises the brain in ways that strengthen it for life. View the Harvard Center for the Developing Child video on “Experiences Build Brain Architecture.”

Medical science used to think those very first weeks, months, and years were passive growing times with very little brain activity or structuring for each child.  That science was wrong.

Massive brain growth happens within the first three years, and each child’s brain benefits from immediate interactions with loving adults in those time frames. We know direct and responsive interactions from parents in the first weeks and months create strong neuron pathways and emotional security levels that give children a physical and mental anchor for their lives in powerful and positive ways. Read about Dr. Beatrice Beebe and Columbia University’s research regarding these new findings.

The opportunity happens immediately for each child. Read about how learning gaps are affected by this early interaction

Lawmakers and educators need to understand the functional importance of helping each child in those first months and years. Parental leave policies for employers should be anchored on that reality.

Every parent needs to know they can give their children the wonderful gift of high neuron connectivity levels by interacting directly with them in those first months and years. Education begins in the home and at birth — parents are the first teachers.

There are two free and easy to use websites — one in English, ThreeKeyYears.org, and one in Spanish, ThreeKeyYears.es — that can help parents find basic tools for exercising their child’s brain.

Both websites offer materials that can be printed in different languages. Download them in either English or in Spanish, and share those pieces with families who have children to help change their lives.

The California First Five Commission for Children and Families’ current Talk, Read, Sing campaign is designed to teach that information to all California parents, and First Five has been running extensive education campaigns that are beginning to have an impact. 

That impact changes the life of each child. We owe it to every family to teach this information to every mother, every grandmother, every father, and every grandfather. Read about how important it is to share this information with every family

The science is uncontestable and it is extremely powerful. The consequences of not talking, reading, and singing to every child in those first days, weeks, months, and years is also important to understand and share. 

An ethical obligation now exists to share and use this information.

The opportunity created in those first months and years is a life-enhancing blessing for every child. Share the website — in Spanish at ThreeKeyYears.es, or in English at ThreeKeyYears.org — and you might change an entire life for a child.