To the Editor:
In response to Nonie K. Lesaux and Stephanie M. Jones’ Commentary on early education’s need for more exacting research (“Early-Childhood Research Is Out of Touch,” Feb. 14, 2018), better research is certainly welcome. But we don’t want to lose sight of existing research about how children’s earliest years can predict costly outcomes in adulthood.
All babies’ early experiences help them develop important neural connections. The peaks in a child’s brain development—for literacy, numeracy, social skills, and emotional control—occur from ages 1 to 3. The baby learns through a caregiver’s choice of words, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. If the caregiver does not hold the baby or communicate expressively, it can affect the child’s long-term health and well-being.
Myriad factors affect this care, including poverty, trauma, and lack of awareness. Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand, who followed the progress of 1,000 children from birth to midlife, released a study last year that shed some light on negative outcomes from inadequate care. Pediatric examinations can identify children as young as age 3 who will by middle age have a greater need for health care, criminal justice, and social-welfare systems. Prevention and early intervention in these cases can turn the tide.
Hopefully, Lesaux and Jones’s research will help us make progress. I have to applaud their invoking of “everyday problems” and “concrete solutions” to drive home the point that if a child’s development is not supported in the family setting, educators and caregivers will have missed the boat.
Parent-Child Mother Goose Program
A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2018 edition of Education Week as The Case for Early-Ed. Research