• slefko

Let’s put early childhood into the District 90 equity equation

I tell people my ‘second education’ is in early childhood development. As a family we started a ‘tiny’ social impact toy business. We’re trying to spark imagination and grow this part of young brains so children can imagine bright futures for themselves. Through this work I’ve come to understand early intervention is one of the most useful and cost effective answers to raising academic achievement.

Dr. Rachel White at Minnesota Children’s Museum has been a valuable resource in seeking understanding on the topic. She’s compiled a wonderful review of common sense research findings that connect play with learning. It’s a fascinating read that might just change the way you look at free time with your children. Play is important to getting ahead; still, there are many things early on that can hold children back from reaching their full potential.

Researching resources available to District 90 families lead me to the Collaboration for Early Childhood. This is a local non-profit that offers universal screening in an attempt to help parents and guardians identify issues that might hold children back from being kindergarten ready. They screen for a host of physical, social and emotional issues and connect parents and guardians to accessible resources so children get what they need to thrive. There is only positive proof of high return on investment in increasing school readiness. The collaboration was founded with local school Districts 200 and 97 signing onto the IGA and funding coming from many other sources. If we’re going to commit to increasing achievement for all then we need to recognize the life of the child and invest where there is the greatest return. I’m different in that I support signing onto the IGA so that all River Forest families have full access to Collaboration services. The cost would be a fraction of 1% of our total budget. Friends, issues like attention, dyslexia, speech and others know no barriers. They’re our real problems and deserve our best attention.

It might sound strange, a grown man talking about the importance of play in early childhood development and ultimately education. Well it's part of what I do these days and the research is there. Early intervention is one of the most useful and cost effective answers to raising academic achievement. I’m happy we have an example in the Collaboration and I’m a supporter of adding this to a D90 equity initiative. If nothing else, remember play matters.


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