By Mary Spence
FOR MANY YEARS I viewed early childhood education as solely an educational issue, but as the years passed and my experience with children grew I began to realize it is also a social justice issue.
What impact does early childhood have on our livelihood and the strength of our communities? Providing children with a strong start allows them to develop into good students and strong, productive adults who will contribute in a meaningful way to our society. High-quality early education programs not only prepare children academically, but socially as well. This is where children learn kindness, compassion, creativity, critical thinking skills, and self-control.
Research tells us that children who experience high-quality early education are less likely to need special education services, drop out of school or become expelled, or be involved with drugs or serious crime; they are better able to compete in the job market. Early investment in children pays off with a stronger nation and a stable democracy.
But what else does it mean? No one in our world can make it alone. We all need support in some way. Think of those who supported you along the way. While living in a country of wealth, we do not often see firsthand the great number of children and families who are struggling. Children need their parents, but parents need their jobs. Families need care for their children so they can work, free from worry, and be more successful.
Working with children most of my adult life taught me that God is near. God speaks to us through the voices of children. The question is are we really listening? Are we providing for our children as God would want? Are we teaching them the skills they need to become good, successful adults, who will carry God’s word forward? The future of our nation depends on the healthy start we give our children. A strong start for our children leads not only to better learning, earning, and physical and mental health, but also to a safer, better educated, and more prosperous nation. The environment in which we raise our children can and will have an impact on their ability to learn and grow into the best adults they can be.
Jesus said, “Bring the little children to me." I believe it is our duty as Christians and as citizens to care for all our children and families. The kindness, support, and investment we give now will impact generations to come.
Mary Spence is the Co-Chair of the Raising of America Kansas City Coalition.