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Close to Home: Early childhood education is a no-brainer

  • (GARY VARVEL / Indianapolis Star)

President Barack Obama's ongoing support for early childhood education and/or Head Start is at best a no-brainer.

Advertisers have known for years that the sooner you reach a child's brain, the easier it is to mold. In other words, follow the money and you will learn that the earlier you stimulate the child's brain, the greater the learning potential and eventual intelligence. For example, when 3-year-olds were shown photos of advertising icons, the overwhelming icon named was the McDonald's logo. This also was evident with Joe Camel of cigarette fame. The bottom line is that a child's brain can be changed.

Furthermore, evidence of the importance of early brain stimulation can be supported by basic brain physiology. The child's first brain growth spurt occurs in utero, when his brain grows to about one pound. The second growth spurt occurs during the first year of infancy, when another pound is added. Thereafter, the brain will have an extended growth period, from age 2 to about 14, when another pound is added.

The first two brain-growth periods are critical to the child's developing brain, indicating why nutrition and early stimulation, such as touching and bonding, are so critical to the child's developing brain. However, what separates us from other mammals and gives us a last reprieve is the third period, or when our mid-brain, which controls cognition and emotion, and executive brain develop. It is this third period during which greater nerve density occurs among our billions of neurons.

In short, the greater the density, the greater the learning potential and intelligence. Again, a good reason for Head Start.

Studies have shown the positive impact for 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in Head Start on pre-reading, pre-writing and vocabulary skills. Also discovered was that Head Start parents read more frequently to their children than those parents of children in a control group who were not enrolled in Head Start.

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