Are Vermont’s kids getting the quality early education and care they need to succeed in life - or even in kindergarten? Robyn Freedner-Maguire of Let’s Grow Kids is working to ensure the answers to those questions are a resounding yes.
“The work we’re doing on behalf of Vermont’s children will ultimately benefit the entire state,” says Freedner-Maguire.
Freedner-Maguire is Campaign Director at Let’s Grow Kids, a new statewide public education campaign highlighting the importance of quality early childhood care and education. Let’s Grow Kids’ three-year campaign has set an agenda to build awareness of early brain development, and then to mobilize Vermonters to advocate for increased investments in high quality, affordable early child care.
Freedner-Maguire joined the newly-formed Let’s Grow Kids in 2013, fresh from her post as executive director of the Vermont Early Child Care Alliance (VECA). The Vermont Community Loan Fund serves as VECA’s fiscal sponsor, and is a proud supporter of Let’s Grow Kids.
Let’s Grow Kids grew out of a VECA survey that showed that most Vermonters were not aware that 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age three, and 90% is developed by age five. Connections made by the brain in early childhood lay the foundation for a lifetime. This data provides the foundation for Let’s Grow Kids’ “Focus on the First Years,” as their slogan puts it.
Freedner-Maguire emphasizes that even simple interactions, consistently applied, can make a tremendous difference in children’s early neural connections and brain development. For example: studies have found that reading, singing, playing and talking with infants helps to build language skills, motor skills, problem solving and cooperative skills.
“These children will be our community leaders, our teachers, our doctors…we want all Vermonters to understand how very important the earliest years of our children’s lives are not only for their future, but for our state’s future as well,” said Freedner-Maguire.
Additional data compiled by Let’s Grow Kids indicates that children enrolled in high quality child care and education:
• score higher on school readiness tests
• are 40% less likely to need special education or to be held back a grade
• are 70% less likely to commit a violent crime by age 18
The Let’s Grow Kids team is currently focused on communications materials and strategies including training sessions, webinars, and a pledge to support their work, which they encourage all Vermonters to sign. Their newly completed video can be viewed here. “We’re also developing various educational tools to help support early education workers,” says Freedner-Maguire.
“We need everyone working on this issue – parents and non-parents, educators, business leaders, child care providers, public officials – it takes all of us to grow our kids.”
You can learn more about Let’s Grow Kids at letsgrowkids.org.