Why do the early years matter?


85 percent of brain development occurs in the first five years of life. This formation impacts a person's cognitive or thinking ability, the capacity to form and maintain relationships, and other lifelong skills that can determine a person's life success. Research shows that high-quality early experiences can have a large effect on this critical time of development, when the foundation of literacy, numeracy, social and emotional growth, and physical health is laid. Children who enter kindergarten with a solid foundation of skills in place are more likely to have school success - and life success.

While family is the single most important influence in a child's life, in Virginia, 62% of children under age six spend all or part of their day in the care of someone other than their parents. Children are more likely to succeed in school and in life if they have high quality care and education during their early years.

High quality early care and education results in benefits to young children including better readiness for school, stronger cognitive or thinking skills, and language development. Later benefits include improved high school graduation rates, reduced rates of teen pregnancy, lower rates of incarceration, and increased job success. As parents, we must strive to provide our children with the highest quality care possible.

High-quality care involves consistent, dependable caregivers and teachers with the skills and education to provide a learning-rich, developmentally appropriate environment. Attentive interaction between a sensitive, caring adult and the child is very important. Caregivers and teachers support children not only in their educational growth, but also in their social and emotional development, which is so critical at this time of life.