Get your baby swimming

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Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 10.49.02 AMWhen your baby isn’t old enough to walk, it may seem silly to take them to the pool. But there can be so many benefits to splashing around and gliding through the water.

Being in the water engages your baby’s body in a completely unique way, creating billions of new neurons as your baby kicks, glides, and smacks at the water.

Due to their delicate immune systems, doctors typically recommend that parents keep their babies from chlorinated pools or lakes until they’re about 6 months old.

But you don’t want to wait too long to introduce your baby to the pool. Children who don’t get their feet wet until later tend to be more fearful and negative about swimming. Younger children are also usually less resistant to floating on their backs, a skill that even some babies can learn!

Here’s the lowdown on the potential benefits of infant swim time.

1. Swimming may improve cognitive functioning.

Bilateral cross-patterning movements, which use both sides of the body to carry out an action, help your baby’s brain grow.

Cross-patterning movements build neurons throughout the brain, but especially in the corpus callosum. This facilitates communication, feedback, and modulation from one side of the brain to another. Down the road, this may improve:

Reading skills

Language development

Academic learning

Spatial awareness

When swimming, your baby moves their arms while kicking their legs. And they’re doing these actions in water, which means their brain is registering the tactile sensation of water plus its resistance. Swimming is also a unique social experience, which furthers its brain-boosting power.

A four-year study of more than 7,000 children by the Griffith University in Australia suggested children who swim have advances in physical and mental development when compared to their peers who don’t swim.

Specifically, the 3- to 5-year-olds who swam were 11 months ahead of the normal population in verbal skills, six months ahead in math skills, and two months ahead in literacy skills. They were also 17 months ahead in story recall and 20 months ahead in understanding directions.

However, the study’s findings were only an association and not firm evidence. The study was also sponsored by the swim school industry and relied on parental reports. More research is needed to explore and confirm this potential benefit.

2. Swim time may reduce the risk of drowning.

Swim time may reduce the risk of drowning in children over 4 years old. Swimming may reduce the risk in children ages 1 to 4, but the evidence isn’t strong enough to say for sure.

It’s important to note that swim time doesn’t reduce the risk of drowning in children under 1.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is a leading cause of death among children and toddlers. Most of these drownings in children under 4 years old occur in home swimming pools. If you have a pool, early swim lessons may be helpful.

Even the youngest babies can be taught swimming skills, like floating on their backs. But for infants under 1 year old, this doesn’t keep them safer from drowning.

Even if your child has had swim lessons, they should still be supervised at all times while in the water.

3. Swimming may improve confidence.

Most infant classes include elements like water play, songs, and skin-to-skin contact with parents or caregivers. Children interact with one another and the instructor and begin to learn to function in groups. These elements, plus the fun of learning a new skill, may boost your baby’s self-esteem.

A 2010 study suggested 4-year-old children who had taken swim lessons at some time from the age of 2 months to 4 years were better adapted to new situations, had more self-confidence, and were more independent than non-swimmers.

An older study reinforced these findings, illustrating that a program that included early, year-round swimming lessons for preschool-age participants was associated with:

Greater self-control

A stronger desire to succeed

Better self-esteem

More comfort in social situations than non-swimmers

4. Increases quality time between caregivers and babies.

Even if you have more than one child, swim time that involves a parent in the water promotes one-on-one bonding. During a lesson, it’s just you and your little one focused on each other, so it’s a wonderful way to spend quality time alone together, point out experts who offer swim lessons.

5. Builds muscle.

Swim time helps promote important muscle development and control in babies at a young age. Little ones will need to develop the muscles needed to hold their heads up, move their arms and legs, and work their core in coordination with the rest of their body.

Swimming.org points out that not only does swim time for babies improve their muscle strength and ability on the outside, but the exercise provides internal benefits as well by getting those joints moving.

Swimming is also great for cardiovascular health and will help strengthen your little one’s heart, lungs, brain, and blood vessels.

6. Improves coordination and balance.

Along with building muscle, time in the pool can help your baby improve their coordination and balance. It’s not easy learning to move those little arms and legs together. Even small coordinated movements represent big leaps in your baby’s development.

A 2003 study Trusted Source found that swimming lessons may help improve the behavior of children as they grow. The study didn’t say why children who have lessons may behave better outside of the water in a pool environment, but it may be that they’re trained to listen to an adult instructor before getting in the water and prompted to follow instructions.

7. Improves sleeping patterns.

As we mentioned before, pool time takes a lot of energy for babies. They’re in a new environment, using their bodies in completely new ways, and they’re working extra hard to stay warm.

All of that extra activity uses up a lot of energy, so you may notice that your little one is sleepier after a swim lesson. You may have to schedule in time for a nap after time in the pool or move up bedtimes on the days that swim time is in your routine.

8. Improves appetite.

There’s nothing like a day in the pool or at the beach to make you leave hungry, and babies are no different. All of that physical exertion in the water, as well as the energy it takes their little bodies to stay warm, burns a lot of calories. You’ll probably notice an increase in your baby’s appetite after regular swimming time.

The takeaway.

As long as you’re taking all the necessary precautions and giving your baby your undivided attention, swim time can be perfectly safe.

Another benefit to infant swimming is that it’s a wonderful parent-child bonding experience. In our hectic, fast-paced world, slowing down to simply enjoy an experience together is rare.

Swim time with our babies brings us into the present moment while teaching them important life skills. So grab your swim bag and wade in!

The art of creating: Why art is important for early childhood development

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Screen Shot 2019-10-16 at 2.08.42 PMArt exploration is not only fun and entertaining, but also educational. Here are some tips for growing your budding artist.

Children are naturally curious. From the minute they gain control of their limbs, they work to put themselves out into the world to see how it all works. They explore, observe and imitate, trying to figure out how things operate and how to control themselves and their environments. This unrestricted exploration helps children form connections in their brain, it helps them learn—and it’s also fun.

Art is a natural activity to support this free play in children. The freedom to manipulate different materials in an organic and unstructured way allows for exploration and experimentation. These artistic endeavors and self-directed explorations are not only fun, but educational as well. Art allows youth to practice a wide range of skills that are useful not only for life, but also for learning.

Skills youth practice when participating in art activities include:

• Fine motor skills. Grasping pencils, crayons, chalk and paintbrushes helps children develop their fine motor muscles. This development will help your child with writing, buttoning a coat and other tasks that require controlled movements.

• Cognitive development. Art can help children learn and practice skills like patterning and cause and effect (i.e., “If I push very hard with a crayon the color is darker.”). They can also practice critical thinking skills by making a mental plan or picture of what they intend to create and following through on their plan.

• Math skills. Children can learn, create and begin to understand concepts like size, shape, making comparisons, counting and spatial reasoning.

• Language skills. As children describe and share their artwork, as well as their process, they develop language skills. You can encourage this development by actively listening and asking open-ended questions in return. It is also a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary words regarding their project (i.e., texture).

In addition to helping youth develop important skills, free expression is also good for overall health and well-being. Giving your child a creative outlet can help relieve stress and work through things happening in their lives. By encouraging artistic expression, you can help facilitate learning.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) affect 34.8 million children across socio-economic lines, putting them at higher risk for health, behavioral and learning problems.

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Kids on swing

WHAT THE SCIENCE TELLS US

Childhood adversity literally gets under our skin, changing our brains and bodies. Exposure to ACEs, including abuse, neglect, domestic violence and parental mental illness and substance abuse, not only affects brain development, it can change children’s hormonal systems, immune systems and even their DNA. This can cause behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and physical health issues.

Toxic stress can lead to chronic disease.

The more ACEs a child is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing chronic illnesses. In children, exposure to ACEs can increase likelihood of chronic diseases such as asthma. In adults, exposure to ACEs dramatically increases the likelihood of 7 out of 10 leading adult causes of death including heart disease and cancer.

Early intervention is key.

Screening for ACEs in children as early as possible and providing children and their families with the support services they need is a critical step to prevent and undo the existing and future harm to children’s brains and bodies caused by toxic stress.

NERVOUS SYSTEM

Disruption to the developing brain, including changes to the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala, may lead to an increase in risk of cognitive impairment, attention deficits, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, self-regulation, memory and attention, and anxiety.

CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM

Toxic stress can increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure, elevating levels of inflammation that can damage the arteries. These conditions can lead to heart disease, stroke and other serious health issues later in life.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

Higher risk of infection and autoimmune disease may occur due to chronic inflammation and other factors, which cause changes in the body’s natural immune defense responses.

ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

Toxic stress can impact growth and development. It can also lead to obesity and changes in the timing of puberty, as well as other issues.

Not every child is exposed to a rich language environment.

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Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 5.19.15 PM.pngChildren from low-income families hear approximately 600 words every hour, whereas children from higher-income families hear approximately 2,000 words an hour. This 30 million word gap leads to dramatic differences in vocabularies of 18 month old children, which increase significantly between 18 months and 24 months. 

  1. Children from impoverished environments may experience pronounced disparities in cognition, academic performance, IQ and school readiness early on that persist throughout the child’s lifetime. This inequality may be attributable to a large disparity in children’s early-language environments.
  2. Children from low-income families hear approximately 600 words every hour, whereas children from higher-income families hear 2,000 words an hour. Throughout the course of three years, this accumulates into a 30 million word gap between low income children and children from higher-income families. This 30 million word gap contributes to the stark disparities in academic performance and is influenced by a generational lack of access to education and language nutrition.
  3. Differences in early language environments lead to dramatic differences in vocabularies of 18 month-old children, which increase significantly between 18 months and 24 months. 
  4. Children who have heard fewer words since birth, are likely to know fewer words and have a less diverse vocabulary by age three.
  5. Children who are ill-prepared to start school are often unable to catch up, and thus, the achievement gap widens. Educational researcher Gloria Landson-Billings suggests that the achievement gap leads to an “educational debt” (analogous to the concept of a “national debt”), at the core of which is a generational lack of access to quality education. This “educational debt” becomes a cyclical process that brings socioeconomic co-morbidities such as illiteracy, under- or unemployment, health and behavioral issues and poverty.

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Bridging the Word Gap

The relationship between socioeconomic status and the word gap may be mediated by parents’ knowledge of child development. Knowledge about child development and how to support it seems to predict the frequency and quality of a parent’s communication with her child more than income or level of parent education. Therefore, efforts must be made to bridge the 30 million word gap, narrow the achievement gap and foster educational success for all children, regardless of the family’s socioeconomic status. Empowered Education and GoMo Health aim to help build that bridge.

Reading in 360!

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The 360 Degree BookScreen Shot 2019-09-28 at 12.21.48 AM

In a 360 degree book, the content controls the user’s experience.  The user is merely along for the ride with the environment being brought to them via video. The users are 100% immersed in the experience with sound and interactive navigation. The experience is limited compared to VR yet with strategic engagement opportunities.

A 360 book can run from a user’s mobile device and can be supported via YouTube or Facebook. This makes experiencing the 360 content just a cell signal away thus it is affordable.

It can run on most mobile devices and be experienced in cardboard goggles (often under $10). In fact, 360 doesn’t even require goggles. Experiencing the 360 content can even occur by dragging a mouse or  your finger on the device.

As for the content development, we have developed a proprietary process for creating 360 content with limited animation. This process allows us to create 360 versions of existing titles or original content with fast development time and lower costs.

How Reading to Children Impacts Their Lives.

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“The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.
 I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two.
And I said, ‘How I wish we had something to do!’”

These are the immortal opening lines from Dr. Seuss’ classic book, The Cat in the HatHaving read these lines thousands of times to my three children, at one time I had virtually the whole book memorized! I used to love reading and rereading the story of the mischievous feline, doing voices and intonations and asking questions as I went along. Of course, the major question is, “would you have let the cat into the house?” Reading The Cat in the Hat was clearly as much fun for me as it was for my kids and now my grandkids.

The value of reading to young children cannot be overemphasized. Many studies over the past 20 years show that spending time reading to preschool children is vital for boosting low-income children’s vocabularies, language development, sound awareness, and letter recognition abilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics data, only 20 percent of 4-year-olds in poverty can recognize all 26 letters, compared with 37 percent of their peers at or above the poverty level.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children introduced to reading early in life tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to learn to read. Children who enter school with these skills have an advantage that carries with them throughout their school years. However, more than 1 in 3 American children enter Kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read.

Unfortunately, the ability to meaningfully read to children is not an innate talent. “Everyone feels like they know how to read a book to children,” says Karen Stoiber, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, “but in reality, many parents and teachers need coaching on how to ask questions as they go along to emphasize rhyming and to teach children how to follow words on the page.” Indeed, the process of coaching parents to help their child’s cognitive development should be part of a comprehensive educational process beginning in the prenatal period. Learning how to read to your child is an important part of this process.

One effective method for coaching parents in literacy development is Educare. EduCare is a maternal and child health program designed exclusively for health, language and literacy development. The solution delivers personalized guidance via mobile device to women or caregivers throughout pregnancy and baby’s early childhood through age 8.

Along with literacy development, EduCare also guides mom in:

  • Learning progression
  • Physical health
  • Psychological wellness
  • Emotional support
  • Social skills and peer engagement

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To learn more about EduCare visit: http://www.gomohealth.com/educare/

The hoaxers will inevitably be proven wrong.

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5399158_071619-wls-shuttershock-apollomoonlandingSomeday, mankind will return to the moon. New lunar voyagers will see the decades-old hardware left behind by 12 brave Americans. Footprints, rover tracks, flags and surroundings exactly matching the photos, undisturbed in the vacuum of space. The hoax talk will cease.

By then the dozen men who walked on another world for the first time will be gone, along with the cast of thousands who worked to put them there. The faithless will be alone to ponder the dishonor and doubt they cast on their country, family, and species. There’ll be no one left to apologize to.

Late Bloomer or Seasoned Pro?

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d48ed900e79fa9547169c26138b4cd8d_XLEvery entrepreneur at some point looked in the mirror and said, “Lots of other people have succeeded…and so will I.”

I believe in myself especially because I am willing to work hard and persevere and I have years of experience to prove it. So I too looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Start putting all that to work for my own endeavor and not for someone else.”

An article in Inc. Magazine now sheds new light on older entrepreneurs like me with statistics that prove my experience, my skills, my connections, my expertise, and yes, my age, are on my side.

A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.8 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 25-year-old founder.

And if you want a really fun statistic:

A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder and is 1.7 times as likely to found a startup that winds up in the top 0.1 percent of all companies.

There are plenty of reasons, but one key factor is the difference between ideas and execution. 

Ideas are great, and I have plenty of them, but execution is everything. The same is true with strategy: Strategy matters, but tactics–what you actually do–is what helps companies grow.

It’s much harder to execute well when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to develop a sound strategy when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to make smart tactical decisions–especially when you need to make a number of decisions every day–when you have limited experience.

Think of it this way: People love to say, “You need to know what you don’t know.” The only way to decrease the number of things you don’t know–and have a reasonable grasp of which things you do well, and which you don’t–is by gaining experience.

That’s especially true where leadership experience is concerned.

So what about those who succeed later in life – the late bloomers.

Is it better to be an early achiever or a late bloomer? That’s the same as asking if it is better to start Facebook at 19 or IBM at 61?

For the world at large it does not matter. Perhaps Facebook could never happen if IBM did not exist. Should Charles Flint have felt himself too old when he organized IBM out of a time-card punching technology firm at the ripe age of 61? Those time card punchers turned out to be early prototypes of computers.

Perhaps you have not heard much about Flint, but the device you are using to read my blog right now is possible in part because of what Flint started at 61. A later bloomer? Perhaps. Too late for him at 61? Never too late.

So, if you’re in your 50s and you want to start a business, do it.  And even if you’re in your 60s…do it.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t have some intangible entrepreneurial something (ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity) that we so called “seasoned” professionals don’t. Their success only seemed inevitable to me in hindsight.

End of the lullaby as younger parents eschew the bedtime ritual, survey finds.

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I just read an article in the Telegraph by Camilla Turner that amazed me. She wrote, “It may once have been seen by parents as a staple of the bedtime regime – but now it seems that lullabies are falling out of favour as younger parents eschew the ritual.”  

Just over a third (38 per cent) of parents sing lullabies to their children aged under five, according to a YouGov poll of over 2,000 adults.  

But the vast majority – 70 per cent – of those who sing lullabies are aged over 45-years-old, suggesting that the practice is less popular with younger parents. Maybe that explains my shock as I am a grand parent now and would still sing to my grandchildren.

The poll shows that women are more than twice as likely to sing to their children every night than men.

Research carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital has previously shown that lullabies help to make children feel better.  

They sang the songs to a group of children under three, some of whom were waiting for heart transplants, and monitored their heart rates and pain perception.  

Results of the study, published by the journal Psychology of Music, showed that a group of child patients at the hospital experienced lower heart rates, less anxiety and reduced perception of pain after they had lullabies sung to them.  

A separate study, published by the National Literacy Trust last year, found that singing songs and rhymes with your baby and young child support language development and reading skills by encouraging children to listen carefully to predict.

Laura Jane-Foley, a soprano singer and ambassador for the Lullaby Trust which aims to prevent unexpected deaths in infancy and promote infant health, said: “Singing to children is just as important as reading to them.

“The musical three R’s of rhythm, rhyming and repetition are crucial to a child’s mental and emotional development and, by participating in the shared activity of singing, parents are strengthening the bonds between parent and child.”

I am preparing to work on two early childhood literacy programs within NICU units. Hopefully we will gain some insights there as well. Find out more about the power of singing to infants at http://www.talkwithmebaby.org.

Here is a classic in case you need a prompt.

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Texas School Triples Recess Time And Sees Immediate Positive Results In Kids

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Kids on swing

I was just speaking about this very subject with a group of education professionals in Washington D.C. last week when I came across an article by Elizabeth Licata. Elizabeth reported about a Texas school that started giving children four recess breaks a day, and teachers and parents said the results have been wonderful.

Recess is a lot more than just a free break for kids to play after lunch period. That free, unstructured play time allows kids to exercise and helps them focus better when they are in class. Now a school in Texas says it took a risk by giving students four recess periods a day, but the risk has paid off beautifully.

According to Today, the Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been giving kindergarten and first-grade students two 15-minute recess breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon to go play outside. At first teachers were worried about losing the classroom time and being able to cover all the material they needed with what was left, but now that the experiment has been going on for about five months, teachers say the kids are actually learning more because they’re better able to focus in class and pay attention without fidgeting.

“There was a part of me that was very nervous about it,” said first-grade teacher Donna McBride. “I was trying to wrap my head around my class going outside four times a day and still being able to teach those children all the things they needed to learn.”

But now she says that not only are the students paying better attention in class, they’re following directions better, attempting to learn more independently and solve problems on their own, and there have been fewer disciplinary issues.

“We’re seeing really good results,” she said, and those results make sense. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that recess is “a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.” Even adults have a hard time concentrating and working their best when confined to a chair all day, so it’s amazing that we expect kids to be able to focus and learn without any way to exercise and blow off steam. When kindergarten students or first-graders are forced to sit still all day and allowed only one 15-minute break to play, as the Eagle Mountain students were before this experiment began, it’s only natural that they’d start to fidget and act up in class. Giving them regular breaks to play outside is good for their minds as well as their bodies.

“You start putting 15 minutes of what I call ‘reboot’ into these kids every so often and… it gives the platform for them to be able to function at their best level,” said professor Debbie Rhea, who is working with Eagle Mountain Elementary and other schools to increase the amount of physical activity and play time children get at school.

Rhea’s program calls for schools to add the four 15-minute recesses a day for kindergarten and first-grade students, and then adding another grade every year as it goes on. And teachers aren’t the only ones seeing good results from this program, either. Some parents say they’ve noticed their children being more independent and creative at home, and they also say the extra recess time has helped their kids socially. It’s a lot easier to make friends on the swing-set than when you’re all silently watching an adult explain math problems, after all.

Giving up class time for regular, short recess breaks seems like an exchange that pays off well, because after recess kids learn more efficiently and enthusiastically when they are in class than they would if they were just strapped to their desks all day. Kids today have a lot of things to learn in a short amount of time, but it looks like the best way to help them learn is to give them time to play and be kids.

Did you know your baby can hear you, even before they are born?

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child-kissing-pregnant-belly1Babies will begin to respond to language in-utero, and this will prime their brains for early language nutrition. 

What’s happening before birth:

Your baby can hear you, and can begin learning language even now! Begin reading to, talking, singing or even humming to your baby. This will help your baby get used to your voice and begin to recognize what makes up language. Rubbing, patting or touching your tummy throughout the day, is another way to communicate with your unborn baby. Because a baby’s brain is constantly developing, connections in the brain will increase and become stronger each time your baby hears new words.

What most babies do before they are born: 

  • Recognize mother’s voice
  • Respond to mother rubbing her tummy
  • Startle to loud noises
  • Can see light
  • Open and close eyes
  • Hear external noises and conversations
  • Gain preference for native language
  • Make facial expressions
  • Recognize rhythm and patterns of stories and rhymes
  • Recognize mother’s voice (and later, father’s)
  • Hear sounds of mothers body
  • Suck thumb
  • Detect strong flavors
  • Detect temperature, pain and pressure
  • Kick, squirm, move around
  • Turn head from side to side
  • Open and close hands
  • Open and close eyes
  • Suck, swallow and yawn
  • Curl toes
  • Stretch
  • Hiccup

The trajectory of a child’s life can be changed if parents know how to deliver “Language Nutrition.”

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An alarming number of  children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade.  This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole. If left unchecked, this problem will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates.  Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to succeed in a global economy, participate in higher education, or enter military and civilian service.

EduCare was created to help reverse this potentially catastrophic trend by delivering common-sense solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.

EduCare is an interactive program that delivers personalized guidance to women and caregivers throughout their pregnancy and baby’s early childhood up to age 8. With no application to download, EduCare acts as a virtual coach for moms and families. The platform provides age-specific guidance to care for baby and encourage physical and emotional health and wellness, and “Language Nutrition” to support nurturing of literacy and brain development.

Early childhood development is our unifying goal; supporting community solutions to address lack of school readiness and helping parents succeed in their critical roles as first teachers and best advocates.

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