Early Intervention Is The Way To Go
Last month, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to make preschool education available to infants and toddlers from low-income families starting at just 6 weeks of age. This decision “is both smart economics and smart brain science,” write Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang in the New York Post:
“Early childhood is the most effective time to help disadvantaged kids, since early experience is critical for cognitive and emotional maturation. Brain development occurs in stages — if a child falls too far behind his or her peers, it becomes hard to catch up. For many disadvantaged children, by the time they start school, the academic skills gap is too wide to bridge. Instead, they can enter a vicious cycle of failure that reduces their interest in school, interfering further with their chances of academic progress.
Starting from the cradle, children learn from their environments, but impoverished conditions can interfere with that process. In 2011, 21.9% of children in the US were living in poverty, according to Census data. Children in poor households are less likely to receive cognitive stimulation that is taken for granted in middle-class homes.
For example, only half of poor preschoolers have alphabet books, compared to 97% of children whose parents are professionals. Middle-class parents spend more than 40 times as much time, on average, reading to their preschoolers than do poor parents. When parents must struggle simply to meet daily basic needs, they have less energy and resources to provide a structured and supportive home environment.
Early experience matters because in the first few years of life, the brain is changing faster than it ever will again. Synapses, the connections that brain cells use to talk with one another, multiply at first during infancy, then are pruned back and refined, leaving only the ones that have been consistently activated. In this way, a brain’s circuitry is sculpted by the child’s experiences, positive or negative.” Read more here.