Circle time is where the magic happens

Early education is more than just fun and games. Much more.

It was Fall, 1999. Newly graduated from college and on the look-out for a job, I answered an advertisement for an unlikely opportunity—assistant classroom teacher in the three year-old room at Great Bay Kids Company, a United Way partner and a childcare center based in Exeter, NH.

I’ll be honest—when I first took the job, I was expecting a fun, quasi-babysitting experience highlighted by all-you-can-eat star-shaped chicken nuggets and unlimited access to Legos. It wasn’t long before I realized there was something much bigger at work in circle time. This was far more than hand puppets and horseplay; early education is an investment in the future of the next generation, powered by loving, trained professionals using sophisticated curriculum and best practices.

The research is clear: the early years of brain development are absolutely critical; hundreds of new neural connections are made every second and 1,000 trillion synapses are formed. A young child’s mind is a nuclear reactor of neuroscience.

early-ed-results-side-imageThat’s why high quality early education matters. That’s why one of United Way’s two core focus areas is educational success. A good start at an age when the brain is the most malleable can set a child on a path to success.

The inverse is true, however. Barriers like poverty and toxic stress can do major harm to the growing mind, and lead to academic setbacks. There is a 25% increased likelihood that kids without quality early education will drop out of school. 25%!

The good news? United Way’s year-end results from our investments in local early education agencies are in—and they’re impressive. Our partnerships ensured that nearly 15,000 children were prepared for kindergarten and over 8,900 children benefited from high-quality early education and care. From the South Shore to the North Shore, from Metro Boston to the Merrimack Valley to the Greater Seacoast, NH, United Way’s push for quality early education for all is having big results.

Take it from me, as someone who was on the front-lines of read-a-longs, finger-painting, felt-boarding and that most exciting of milestones, name-writing: early education means the world.

The star-shaped chicken nuggets are a bonus.