Want to Strengthen Stark?
Start with Our Youngest Citizens
Stark's Great Start for Great Futures Coalition is committed to improving outcomes for our youngest learners knowing that we can't wait until children enter kindergarten to start. Similar to the construction of a house, authentic early experiences create a foundation for lifelong learning, behavior and both physical and mental health.
According to Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the basic architecture of the brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood. During the first three years of life, the brain develops quickly and constantly with over 1 million new connections being formed every second. In fact, 90% of a child's brain development occurs by age 5, and birth to age 3 is the fastest rate of brain development across his or her lifetime!
Differences in early language exposure are the beginning of the achievement gap. Our community can work proactively to address this by becoming advocates for "language nutrition" - defined as nourishing a child's brain with meaningful words through consistent, responsive interactions that build essential pathways in their developing brains.
To leverage the power of language, Talk First Stark, an initiative under Great Start for Great Futures, is working to ensure that families and community members have the tools needed to nourish the growing brains of our children. Using social media, advocacy training and public service announcements, Talk First Stark has begun spreading its message across all systems - health, business, social service and education. Learning to respond intentionally is one strategy promoted by Talk First Stark. In daily, back and forth communication, when there are at least five verbal or nonverbal "serve-and-returns" in a conversation - my turn, your turn - within 5 seconds, children are invited into the conversation. (See the sidebar for "Five Elements of Responsive Interactions.") As community members, we all play a key role in impacting the life of a child. Visit http://www.edpartner.org/early_childhood/ to learn more about Talk First Stark or take advantage of awareness opportunities.
 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
 From a research perspective, we know that the higher the number of words spoken to a child the greater the increase in vocabulary development, enhanced language and speech processing, and improved literacy outcomes. (Hoff and Naigles, 2002, Hurtado et al., 2008, Huttenlocher et al., 1991, Weisleder and Fernald, 2013, Zimmerman et al., 2009).