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GUEST COLUMN: Investing in early childhood development crucial

By: Donna Lynne
July 23, 2017 Updated: July 31, 2017 at 10:39 am
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There's good reason that the first few years of a child's life are referred to as the "magic years."

During this time, more than 1 million neural connections are formed every second. These are the connections that build the brain's architecture.

Decades of research show that when young children have positive experiences and caring and consistent relationships, a strong foundation is created for lifelong learning, health and well-being.

It's not just parents and professional caregivers who are responsible for giving kids a strong start in life - we all have a role to play in preparing Colorado's kids for a healthy and successful future. Colorado prospers when our kids thrive because they are our future workers, leaders and community members.

In this spirit, the state recently released a series of videos in English and Spanish based on the Early Learning and Development Guidelines, which describe a child's trajectory from birth to age 8 and provide practical tips and fun ideas that anyone can use to support young children's healthy development.

The Early Learning and Development Guidelines bring together strategies that align with our deep scientific understanding of how to support healthy development in the early years.

The new videos, available at EarlyLearningCO.org and featuring local celebrity presenters Stephen Brackett of the Flobots and radio personality Issa Lopez, offer tips, activities and ideas that can be easily incorporated into everyday routines.

As a mother of three, I can attest that parenting is incredibly rewarding and at times, a daunting challenge. But supporting our children's healthy development starts by just getting involved.

The new video series proves that getting involved is as simple as using the tools we have to build strong, supportive relationships with our children so they feel safe and secure to learn and explore the world around them.

The Early Learning and Development Guidelines videos are the latest investment Colorado has made to support children and their families in the early years.

As a co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, along with Anna Jo Haynes, CEO/President Emeritus of Mile High Early Learning, and Barbara Grogan, retired founder and CEO of Western Industrial Contractors, I collaborate with a group of early childhood advocates who champion efforts across the state to ensure the youngest Coloradans grow up happy and healthy.

As lieutenant governor, my office supports the privately funded One Book 4 Colorado program that distributes 75,000 copies of the same book each year in English and Spanish to 4-year-olds across the state.

The Colorado Legislature contributed significantly to the healthy development of the state's young children with the READ Act, which emphasizes grade-level reading competency by the end of third grade - a critical milestone that predicts future educational success.

These initiatives for Colorado's children will undoubtedly yield strong returns. In fact, economic research spanning more than 30 years has shown that, particularly for economically disadvantaged children, high-quality early childhood experiences lead to better educational, health, and economic outcomes that increase revenue and reduce social spending on welfare, corrections and health care.

Community investments in early childhood are of critical importance. As a society, we must do everything possible to continue to support the healthy physical, social-emotional and cognitive development of Colorado's children.

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Donna Lynne is the lieutenant governor of Colorado and co-chair of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission.

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