Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“There are only 2,000 days between the time a baby is born and when he or she will begin kindergarten. During that time brain architecture is forming, creating either a strong or weak foundation for all future learning,” according to the new First 2,000 Days website, an update and expansion of the website which was first launched in 2012.

The new website is designed to raise public awareness about how early childhood experiences have a “lasting impact on later learning, health and success.”

The website features information — facts, videos, and links to research — on young children’s brain development, lifelong health, and their acquisition of soft skills.

The site also showcases the state’s diverse support for early childhood investments, including North Carolina’s business and faith community leaders, and members of its law enforcement agencies.

Launched by the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), whose mission is to “build a foundation of opportunity and success for every child by the end of third grade,” the website mixes web-based activities and with a call for people to take real-life action.

Why make these investments of time and money? To improve economic prosperity, increase national security, and enhance community safety.

The website’s goal is to “lead by engagement,” according to Tracy Zimmerman, the director of strategic communications at NCECF. “We want to keep people connected to early childhood issues and allow them to engage at a level in which they are most comfortable.”

Taking Action

“Get the Info,” “Pass It On,” and “Take Action,” the website advises, encouraging people to learn more about early childhood and use social media to share the information.

Community members can also sign a pledge to show their commitment to young children.

Another suggestion is to become an “NC Voice in Action” just as psychologist Elizabeth Peterson-Vita has in a recording on the First 2,000 Days website.

“Early childhood education is one of the soundest investments we can make for our local and national future as we pass the torch on to the next generations,” Peterson-Vita says in her recording.

“We know that lack of early childhood development programs leads to many kids being just shelved and warehoused which creates developmental issues,” Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan explains in his message, noting that it is “extremely important” for public safety that children learn at an early age how to develop emotional stability and get along with others.

Anyone can add their vocal support, by calling the phone number listed on the website and recording a brief statement.

The website also offers a toolkit that includes presentations on early childhood that are available in three formats: PowerPoint, Prezi, and as a video. Each presentation includes guides and talking points. The toolkit’s print materials include: the First 2,000 Days Brochure, fact sheets, and other materials. Users have to register to access these materials.

Become a Champion

“Do you want your community to understand how early child development impacts children and North Carolina’s future well-being?” the First 2,000 Days website asks. “Then become a First 2,000 Days Champion. Champions carry the message of the importance of early child development to their community, congregation, and workplace.”

The First 2,000 Days provides “an orientation, training and information to get you started.”

So far, more than 100 community members work as champions. Trained to give the First 2,000 Days presentation, they “carry the First 2,000 Days message with them in their professional and personal life.”

In addition, more than more than 3,500 people have attended an early childhood presentation: and of this group, 40 percent have committed to continuing their involvement.

One 2,000 Days champion is Wanda Yuhas of the Pitt County Economic Development Commission, who says, “Education and economic development are inextricably tied together, and early childhood education is crucial to both.”

Other champions include Lael Gray, executive director of the Asheville Jewish Community Center; Kit Cramer, president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden.

Next Steps

If you live in North Carolina, join the growing First 2,000 Days community. If you don’t, share their work. It’s a creative effort to build and share support for early childhood development so that young children have the widespread community support they need to thrive throughout their lives.