Research shows that the first five years of life is the most
crucial time in the development of a child's brain. Whether
foundations for many life skills are established at this time could
pave the road to success - or failure.
Early childhood is a critical period of physical, language and
cognitive development. It is also a time when children learn to
regulate their behaviors, socialize with their peers and form
attachments, said Debra Andersen, executive director for Smart Start
Oklahoma, a statewide early childhood initiative.
Some of the skills employers find difficult to find while hiring
are ones that develop in the first five years of life, according to
an Oklahoma Workforce Employer Survey conducted in 2006 by the
Governor's Council on Workforce and Economic Development. These
skills include reading, writing, teamwork, communication and problem-
Investments in quality early learning programs for younger
children will have lasting effects that reduce costs later in life
while enhancing economic growth, according to a report by the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce. The report, Ready, Set, Go! Why Business Should
Support Early Childhood Education, shows that for every dollar
invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 years
"Children who experience environments rich with language,
reading, physical play and good parenting/caregiver practices are
typically more prepared to succeed when they enter school," Andersen
"Research has exploded over the past 10-15 years in the field of
early childhood. We know much more about how children's brains
develop, how their interaction and experiences with the significant
adults in their lives can shape their future behavior, how the early
development of positive social emotional skills can impact school
performance, relationships and becoming a productive and healthy
parent, worker, and citizen in our state," she said.
"We know more about how stress can negatively impact children.
Abuse, domestic violence, etc., can have long-term negative impacts
on later outcomes. We must apply what research has identified to our
practices and policies in the state in order to build a strong
economic foundation for our state."
Smart Start Oklahoma has a network of 18 local community
coalitions that focus on local strategies needed to support early
childhood and promote school readiness.
"Each community has unique needs, different opportunities and
challenges. These communities provide input into state and federal
policy through Smart Start Oklahoma to assure their children are
provided the early opportunities needed to be successful in school,"
Smart Start Oklahoma has teamed up with The Potts Family
Foundation and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable to develop the OKCEO
(Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities) network - a group of
concerned business leaders who make presentations to local
organizations on the importance of early childhood investments for
the economic growth of our state.
"Fifty-four percent of my business leaders said they already
realize they are going to have difficulty in finding enough highly
educated and skilled workers for the future," said Blake Wade,
president of OKCEOs.
"No economy can succeed without a high-quality workforce.
Research has shown the importance of individuals and the economy as
a whole of both early childhood education as well as efforts to
promote the lifelong acquisition of skills," Wade said. "Early
intervention towards children has much higher returns than later
interventions such as reduced public teacher ratios, public job
training and convict rehabilitation programs. …