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March 5, 2021

Why Early Learning Matters on Every Level

By The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County staff

Early learning should matter to everyone in Hillsborough County, not just to child care providers or families with young children. We all have a responsibility to advocate for equitable access to early learning for our youngest residents to ensure they’re given the tools they need for success in school and in life.

Here’s what a few of our own Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County (ELCHC) team members have to say on the cruciality of early learning.

Early learning matters to the child.

From the time a new baby comes into the world, they begin to learn. They learn how to interact with the adults around them, how to communicate and how to move. The approximately 1,825 days from a child’s birth until they start kindergarten is a literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impact a child’s future. Parents and families of children play a huge role in this period, but there is another reinforcement available to help lay this foundation: high-quality early learning programs.

High-quality child care programs provide multiple benefits to the children they serve. These include social emotional advantages such as learning how to cooperate and get along with others, sharing, turn-taking and following directions. High-quality, play-based programs also instill an enthusiasm for learning through a child’s hands-on exploration and experiences as well as through carefully planned, teacher-directed activities. These types of experiences help children be better prepared for kindergarten as they already have foundational knowledge of the behavior expectations in a classroom setting and a natural curiosity and love for learning.

High-quality early learning programs provide children the foundation of physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills that will help them become life-long learners.

– Lorinda Gamson, ELCHC Director, Provider Relations


Early learning matters to the family.

Our community is made up of families from different places who behave uniquely and value and prioritize different things. That said, the pursuit of happiness as a family is a common thread most of us share.

Ensuring that each new member of that family is provided, at a very early age, an enriching environment that prioritizes personal growth, affection, empathy, trust, confidence and health will directly improve the overall well-being of the family. Providing a child with a properly well-rounded early learning experience has proven to have lasting effects on that individual’s ability to be independent and contribute to their community and, more importantly, their family.

As a board member of the ELCHC and a father of three, I have had the opportunity to understand the importance of early learning personally and professionally. As we are both working parents, all our children attended an early learning program prior to their first birthday. We truly believe the education and development attained during those early years have been critical to our children’s growth.

Early learning has proven critical to establishing a life trajectory of success. The more our children grow up to be independent, confident, caring and hungry for education, the more they contribute to the strength of our families.

– Luke Buzard, ELCHC board member and vice president of Pipeline Safety & Regulatory Affairs, TECO Peoples Gas


Early learning matters to our community.

We all know that a variety of factors determine success in life. But for some, success may be further from their reach depending on the impacts of socioeconomic and racial inequities that are present in our society.

For our community, being better at early learning means more kids are emotionally and academically ready for kindergarten, which means better passing rates on the third grade Florida Standard Assessment, which means higher high school graduation rates. All of this helps our community to have a more skilled workforce, be more competitive in attracting jobs and capital investment and have fewer people entering the criminal justice system.

Studies show that an investment in quality early learning has an estimated 13.7% internal rate of return. If the numbers aren’t convincing, imagine the infinite value of having just one more child having a chance to succeed. We should all be advocating for every child in our community to have access to early learning so they can be set up to live their best life in school and beyond.

– Gordon L. Gillette, ELCHC CEO

Originally published in March 2021

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