Early ChildhoodEarly Childhood Page

A child’s earliest experiences greatly affect the way his or her brain develops. In the first years of life the brain is developing rapidly. More than 700 neural connections are being formed every second setting the stage for children to acquire skills like working memory, language development and self-control. The early years are the most effective time to invest in nurturing, quality learning experiences and promoting physical health to lay a strong foundation for later learning, achievement and adult productivity. When children and their families have access to quality early care and education, their long-term academic outcomes improve. The investments we make between birth and age 8 achieve some of the best financial and social returns, including healthier, happier children, a more educated population and, ultimately, a stronger and more stable economy for our state.

Where Colorado Stands

Three decades of national research show that quality early childhood care and education contributes to the development of cognitive skills, social-emotional skills and character skills including attentiveness, persistence, motivation, self-control and teamwork. We know that when children are ready for school before kindergarten, they are more likely to be successful students, read at grade level by the end of third grade and graduate from high school on time.

Unfortunately, among the 41 states with state-supported preschool programs, Colorado ranks 37th in spending, 22nd  in access to preschool for 4-year-olds and 10th in access for 3-year-olds. Although Colorado’s state spending on preschool is low by comparison, the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) is an effective program that meets six out of 10 quality standards of the National Institute for Early Education and Research and consistently shows school readiness gains for Colorado’s most at-risk children. In fact, longitudinal data show children at risk of low achievement because of racism or low incomes who participate in the Colorado Preschool Program outperform their peers who did not participate in the program. This is true in every area of state assessment (reading, writing, math and science) through the ninth grade.

What the Children’s Campaign is Doing

Because quality early childhood experiences are critical to promoting healthy children and families, educational success and, ultimately, ending the cycle of poverty, the Children’s Campaign advocates strongly for expanded access to quality early childhood programs and continued improvements in program alignment and efficiency. Specifically, we are focused on the following policy priorities:

Investing in Kids

Adequate funding is paramount to increasing access to high-quality early childhood experiences and providing support to families. We have seen exciting trends over the course of the past decade or so in children’s fourth grade reading with more students reading at or above grade level. Between 2004 and 2014, Hispanic/Latino children made larger gains in fourth grade reading proficiency than any other racial or ethnic group.

We need to build on this momentum to ensure more children have access to the high quality early childhood experiences that set them on the path to school success.

For more information on early childhood development in Colorado, please contact the Children’s Campaign’s Vice President of Early Childhood Initiatives, Bill Jaeger, at bill@coloradokids.org or 720.552.0002.

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