Most people do not know how important the first three years of life are for the brain development of each child.
Many people believe that kindergarten is the time when the education process begins.
Those people are wrong. The process starts with birth. Brain strengthening and learning ability development literally start at birth. The first few years are critically important -- and we can now predict with a significant degree of accuracy by age three which children will not be able to read when they get to school.
The number of words in each child's vocabulary when they get to kindergarten can predict with significant accuracy which kids will end up dropping out of school and what the likelihood is of children going to jail.
We have more people in jail than any country in the world. We have more than three times as many people in jail than any other western country. Our jails are full of people who either read poorly or who can't read at all.
More than 70% of the people in jail today fit that description. Even more frightening, more than 85% of the kids who are in our juvenile justice system today either read poorly or can't read at all.
The problem is growing.
The first three years of life are a key part of the process that puts people in jail and causes people to drop out of school.
The brain needs exercise in those first golden years of life. Brains that exercise grow much stronger than brains that don't exercise.
When we read to those tiny little brains and when we talk to those children in those very early years, the brain of each child is activated, exercised, and strengthened. We know what needs to be done to make brains strong and we know when to do it.
The brains of the children who are stimulated are actually physically bigger than the brains of the children who do not get that level of brain exercising. Exercise makes the muscles in the body bigger. Measurements now show that the right activity levels and the right set of mental exercises also help us grow bigger brains.
We need all families with children to know that those golden years exist for each new child. We need every mother to know that she can do things in those golden years to strengthen her child's brain and improve her child's ability to learn.
Reading half an hour every day to each child can help immensely. Reading that half hour can make the difference for a child between being a dropout and being able to finish school.
There are financial reasons to do that reading, as well. The average lifetime difference in personal income between the dropouts and the children who finish school is over a million dollars.
A million dollars is a great gift to give a child.
We need everyone -- every family, community, and every mother -- to know that those first years of life are so golden and so important to each child that we change the entire trajectory of their lives when we read and talk to them.
So share this information with anyone you know who has a tiny baby or who will have a tiny baby. Watch Patricia Kuhl explain those issues and the key research on YouTube. Her research gives us knowledge we can use for each child.
Some mothers have a very difficult time reading to their children. Some mothers have very little support and may be working hard -- maybe with two or more part-time jobs to financially support their children. Reading and talking to children can be hard to do. When that is true, we need to find ways of helping mothers and children get the support needed to exercise each child's brain. We have a lot of resources as a community and as a country, and we need to channel those resources to help the children who need that help.
That is more likely to happen when people understand the opportunity that exists.
Lives are at stake.
Every child whose life we save by giving that child early support is a child whose life we save.
Every child is important. We all need to be part of the solution.
Help save a child from prison and from failure, and please do it now.
The timing is -- for each child -- now. Literally now. Help where you can and do it today.
We need to cut the number of dropouts and the number of kids who go to jail by half.
We know what needs to be done. We need to figure out ways of doing it.
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