The Rally4Babies live streamed event wrapped up just now and is available via the above link.
The most exciting rally cries came from actor and Save the Children Ambassador Jennifer Garner and ZERO TO THREE’s CEO, Matthew Melmed. Comments from Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan and Chair of the Board, Alma Powell, for America’s Promise Alliance were much of what we’ve been hearing for months, including highlights of President Obama’s efforts. But, their endorsement for reaching out to babies was the “same old same old,” bland rhetoric without a real solution. Melmed did a great job presenting us with information on brain development and the importance of early stimulation. He made a great case for it when he pointed out how, in the first several minutes of the rally had been going, a baby had made over a million connections. But, Jennifer Garner offered viewers a solution stemming from her first-hand look during home visits she made in her home state of West Virginia. She knows parents, especially teenage and new moms, need a parent educator who will go into a home to teach them how to make a real difference in the lives of their babies. She has the answer that none of the others offered…get to parents before a baby is even born, send in enthusiastic, well-trained parent educators and teach parents about all the ways a baby is ready to learn and shows evidence of learning from the day he or she is born.
Although the importance of language use by parents and caregivers was briefly touched on during the rally, it was not the primary focus I had hoped for before the rally began. Most of the participants mentioned reading to a child, literacy skills, and the importance of having accessibility to books as a key to school readiness. Musician Laurie Berkner emphasized the importance of music in teaching and learning. Alma Powell placed a focus on the arts as a tool to build a strong foundation in a child’s development. But, what we really need to emphasize with parents and to teach them to use doesn’t cost any money, like books, music or art does. Words are free! If we teach parents to use the kinds of words that develop the language, social, emotional and sensory skills necessary to be prepared for school by the age of 3, every child will have the same shot at school and life success.