Susan Oschorn, in her July 8th post for her ECE Policymatters blog, felt as I did that the Rally4Kids event yesterday lacked inspiration. According to Oschorn and early childhood consultant Karen Nemeth, participants repeated the same old messages about such topics as the rich-poor gap, state and federal support for helping children early in their lives, and the importance of early brain stimulation for solid development in very young children. Oschorn quoted the advice of Alma Powell, Board Chair of America’s Promise Alliance to “Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it” as the most realistic solution to the problem of getting all infants and toddlers ready for school and life.
Playing on Oschorn’s agreement with Powell’s advice to “talk about it,” yes, talk is the answer! However, with all due respect, we’ve heard enough talk from The Obama Administration, the early childhood experts, Head Start/Early Head Start people, economists and others. I must reiterate here what I said yesterday in my blog about how to fix the problem: give parents and caregivers the words they need to help their child’s language, emotional, social and sensory development from birth to 3. It’s the parents who need to get busy with talking. We’ve heard plenty from everyone else but them.
If a parent or caregiver doesn’t know how to build language, emotional, social and sensory skills in their child through the use of their words, then there should be a real place or a real person to which they can go for guidance and support, or they need a tool to which they can refer frequently that sits on their kitchen counter. Perhaps support can be given at a free clinic or pediatrician’s office at frequent, regular intervals from birth to 3 years old. Perhaps guidance can be provided at the local library before or after weekly story hours. Perhaps there should be a 1-800-PARENT line that parents can call to get advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on what to say and how to say it to their babies and toddlers. Certainly home visiting programs need to be expanded, especially in the neediest and poorest of areas.
But, one thing is for sure, all the talk in the world from the experts, politicians, heads of government programs, and other “higher-ups” will not make a difference, just as it hasn’t made a difference in the last 20 years. Let’s face it, if Hart and Risley’s landmark study didn’t even make it out of the starting gate back in 1995, we can’t trust the “higher-ups” to get the information to the parents and caregivers who need it in any rapid or timely fashion. We bloggers, activists, tweeters, Youtubers, and Facebookers, business owners, educators and parents who already know how to use words with babies and toddlers for their school and life success need to take the matter into our own hands and work towards empowering, guiding, and supporting other parents. A grassroots effort seems like the only solution that hasn’t been tried up to now, and I believe it will be the only one that will work.