Early Childhood

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 child care and early childhood education, their long-term academic outcomes improve. The investments we make between birth and age eight 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.

baby holding a gavel, wearing a tie in the state capitol senate chamber

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.

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Unfortunately, among the 41 states with state-supported preschool programs, Colorado ranks 37th in spending, 22nd  in access to preschool for four-year-olds and 10th in access for three-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.

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What the Children’s Campaign is Doing

A baby laughing and clapping

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:

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Ensuring Access to High-Quality Child Care

The quality of a child’s developmental and early learning experiences plays a critical role in ensuring their future success. Offering low-income families access to high-quality, affordable child care is at the forefront of our advocacy agenda.

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Building a Strong Early Childhood System

We’re working to build a strong early childhood system in Colorado that aligns programs, allows for the blending of multiple financing streams, promotes the sharing and tracking of data, and establishes common performance outcomes.

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Improving Early Literacy and Reading Proficiency

Multiple studies of learning have confirmed the importance of third grade reading proficiency as a predictor of school and career success. The Colorado Children’s Campaign works with advocates and policymakers to close gaps in early literacy.

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Ensuring School Readiness with High-Quality Preschool and Full-Day Kindergarten

At-risk children who attend high-quality preschool and full-day kindergarten are less likely to fall behind their better resourced peers later in school. Our focus is on expanding access to the Colorado Preschool Program and full-day kindergarten.

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Investing in Infants and Toddlers

The Colorado Children’s Campaign’s three-part series, Ready, Set, Go: Investing in Infants and Toddlers, examines how the foundations for lifelong success start in the earliest stages of life, from before birth through early childhood.

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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 in children’s fourth grade reading over the past decade or so, 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.