Editor's note: This story first appeared in Community News.
Chattanooga 2.0's Early Childhood Coalition, which consists of 30 organizations involved with early childhood development, recently launched the Chattanooga Basics campaign dedicated to erasing gaps among racial, socioeconomic and ethnic groups that form in the first three years of a child's life.
About 18-24 months ago, a group of Chattanooga volunteers traveled to Boston to learn about Boston Basics, said Robin Cayce, director of programs for Chattanooga 2.0.
Boston Basics is a public-private partnership organization that developed out of Harvard University's Achievement Gap Initiative which, similar to Chattanooga Basics, has a goal of raising achievement levels for all children by closing skill gaps among racial, income and ethnic groups.
Chattanooga Basics details simple, everyday interactions parents can do during the first three years of a child's life, when studies show that 80 percent of brain development occurs. The five "Basics" are: maximizing love and managing stress, such as parents giving their children hugs and telling their children they're proud of them; talking, singing and pointing to help children understand language; counting, grouping and comparing to develop early math skills; exploring through movement by running and climbing; and reading and discussing stories.
"We're very committed to ensuring our community knows about the Basics," Cayce said.
Partner organizations — a diverse group including United Way of Greater Chattanooga, Read 20, Signal Centers, the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum and the Chattanooga Public Library — are integrating the Basics into their work, displaying posters and passing out activity cards, she said. The Basics also have been presented in professional development settings for educators and emergency assistance providers at PTA and Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce meetings, and at community events like the Red Bank Back to School Bash, Cayce said.
A soft launch of Chattanooga Basics' hospital visitation program began in December and January at Erlanger Health System and Parkridge Medical Center, with a goal of visiting every family when their baby is born to teach them the Basics, she said. Volunteers at Erlanger do the family visits; at Parkridge, they are performed by the speech and hearing team, she said.
To gauge the success of Chattanooga Basics, the program will use the number of children who are reading when they leave kindergarten as a benchmark.
"We expect to have strong data by the end of this year," Cayce said.
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