A lot happens for children from birth to age eight. We have all heard the amazing reports about how experiences early in life impact brain development. Babies’ brains make 700 neural connections every second during the first three years of life! By six months of age, babies encode the sounds of the language they hear and watch the mouths of people who talk to them so they can do likewise.
Such exciting research has resulted in increased attention being paid nationally as well as locally to the importance of early childhood development. Investing in high-quality child care is critical. And, elevating the expertise of the workforce, be it in child care settings, Pre-K programs, or primary classrooms is essential. The Stern Center has been proud of its leadership role in this area through our research-proven program BUILDING BLOCKS FOR LITERACY® (BUILDING BLOCKS).
Early learning standards extend from birth to age eight. That is a huge amount of time for a young child. It is key that the transition from preschool to the primary grades be seamless and successful. Right now, this chasm between birth-5 and K-3 requires quite a leap. Elevating the knowledge of the workforce so that early care and education providers, as well as primary educators, share a common language about best practices grounded in brain science will help. Children can then not only enter Kindergarten ready to learn but also graduate high school as literate, socially skilled young citizens.
We know that listening and talking develop naturally for most children. None of us needs to show a toddler how to talk. But we do need to enrich the amount of vocabulary young children hear and help them use language to express themselves in different kinds of settings. We also need to teach them to read. Becoming a reader is not a natural act. While 60% of children learn to read almost intuitively, 40% need explicit teaching. Decades of research have shown us exactly how to do that!
To ensure a continued high level of focus across a birth to eight continuum at the Stern Center, Peggy Price has assumed the new position of Early Education Program Manager for Birth to Eight. Peggy has a Master’s degree in early education and has just been named a Fellow by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Peggy teaches classes in Orton-Gillingham to teachers within the Cynthia K. Hoehl Institute at the Stern Center. Her broad background working with students from birth to eight and beyond equips her beautifully for this new role.
“I am not working with just one early educator or one classroom teacher, but we are working together with schools and groups of educators to support greater system-wide impact. It is important that we continue to disseminate the research in a way that insures implementation with flexibility based on different children’s individual needs.”
– Peggy Price
Another divide that can exist from birth to eight is between the development of early literacy and social emotional skills. These key early learning needs develop together. That is why our BUILDING BLOCKS programs are integrated with social-emotional offerings like Social Skills Steps for Infants & Toddlers (ages Birth- 2) and Social Skills Steps for Preschoolers (ages 3-5). We were pleased to welcome Speech-Language Pathologist Karen Rodgers, M.A. last May. She brings an extensive skill set, teaching BUILDING BLOCKS as well as social skills classes. Karen also has extensive expertise in feeding and swallowing therapy.
Peggy and Karen look forward to working with other members of our professional learning team to maximize opportunities for educators and families to translate research into practice across early literacy and social-emotional domains.