By FAITH GONG
It’s the time of year when those of us living in Vermont wonder: Just what time of year IS it? Since March 20, my children have awoken each morning to observe with confusion: “It’s spring, but there’s still snow on the ground!” Is it winter? Spring? Mud season? Any and all, depending on the day.
But here is some welcome clarity: In Addison County, the entire month of April is the Month of the Young Child.
The Month of the Young Child is a local observance of an annual event sponsored nation-wide by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to celebrate early learning, young children, and their teachers and families. Towards this end, early childhood programs across the country hold activities that bring awareness to the needs of the youngest members of society.
The Addison County Month of the Young Child is a collaboration between Building Bright Futures (Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council), the Addison County Directors’ Network of early childhood professionals, and local libraries.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you have young children in your life right now and are fairly enlightened about their need for quality early childhood programs. Even if you don’t have a young child in your home, chances are that you have — or have had — young children in your life. At the very least, you were a young child at one point.
In other words: The Month of the Young Child is something that we can all get behind.
Here are some ways that you can be involved in the Month of the Young Child:
1. Observe. Artwork from local childcare centers, family home providers, and preschools (including Quarry Hill School, Otter Creek Childcare Center, College Street Children’s Center, Evergreen Preschool, Mary Johnson Children’s Center, Addison County Parent-Child Center, Bristol Family Center, Wren’s Nest, East Middlebury Cooperative Nursery School, Starksboro Cooperative Preschool, Lincoln Cooperative Preschool, Vermont Sun Children’s Center, Champlain Valley Head Start Mary Hogan, Addison Northwest Early Education Program, and Nadeau’s South) will be on public display throughout the month of April. Look for children’s artwork at Ilsley Library in Middlebury, Bixby Library in Vergennes, and Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol. Additional art, storyboards, and photographs will be displayed in the windows of local Main Street businesses.
2. Attend. As part of the “Healthy Children, Happy Families” Parenting Series, a workshop on “Getting Children to Eat Well” will be held at Vergennes Congregational Church (childcare available at Evergreen Preschool) on Wednesday, April 19, from 5:30-7 p.m. Mingle with fellow parents of young children, enjoy a short presentation on how food and nutrition impact child health and well-being, and create healthy and kid-friendly snacks! RSVP required: www.eventbrite.com/e/healthy-children-happy-families-getting-children-to....
3. Advocate. Vermont’s Act 166 requires school districts to fund 10 hours a week of universal pre-K to 3- to 5-year-olds, regardless of parental income, in a prequalified pre-K program for 35 weeks of the school year. All children who will be age 3-5 on or before Sept. 1 are eligible; for the 2017-18 school year, the Act 166 funding is equal to $3,178 per child.
This is wonderful news for Vermont families, but more can be done to ensure that access to quality early childhood programs remains a priority for Vermont’s children. To learn more and to become an advocate for young children, check out the websites for Let’s Grow Kids (www.letsgrowkids.org/business) and the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance (vermontearlychildhoodalliance.org/legislative-agenda/2017/2017-legislative-agenda).
4. Appreciate. As Su White of the Addison County Directors’ Network put it: “The Month of the Young Child is a time each year when each of us are reminded that our youngest learners play a significant role in the life and vibrancy of our communities.”
This month, what if we were especially mindful about the youngest children in our communities? This could take many forms: read to your little people, do a craft project with them, take them out for a special meal or activity, tuck some affirming notes into their lunch boxes, host some play dates so that you can get to know other little people.
And what if we didn’t stop there? The Month of the Young Child also celebrates the librarians and childcare providers who dedicate their time and energy to our young children. Offer a few hours of volunteer time to a pre-K program or your local children’s librarian, take them some treats to keep their energy up, or write them a thank-you note letting them know how much you appreciate their efforts.
Our youngest children and the adults who serve them are often overlooked; they don’t have much (if any) economic or political power, which is how society tends to rate worth. The Month of the Young Child is an attempt to turn that way of thinking on its head. So, for this month — and throughout the year — let’s be a community that notices and honors the worth of our young children.