Every time I’m around young children I am always so intrigued by their curiosity and eagerness to learn. I was at a wedding this weekend and my five-year old cousin asked to borrow my camera. Knowing that my camera is pretty “high-tech” (for me anyway), I decided to show her how to use it but I didn’t expect that she would figure it out. To my surprise after only a few minutes she made it look like a breeze and she happily ran off and took some awesome photos. I was shocked! But I really shouldn’t be, because children’s brains develop at an amazing rate during the first five years of their lives and their potential to learn new things is enormous. That’s why it is so important that we support all children and their families during these critical years of development.
Unfortunately in Canada, not all children are getting the opportunities they need to grow up healthy. I think many Canadians might be surprised to learn that Canada ranked 21st out of 21 (last place!!) out of OECD countries in terms of access and public investment in early childhood programs and services. And that 25% of Canadian children under 6 years, from all backgrounds are “vulnerable” at the time of school entry, which means they have physical, social/emotional or cognitive difficulties likely to cause problems in later life. The reason I underlined “all backgrounds” is because many people believe that only the poorest children in our communities are affected, however research shows that 70% of vulnerable children in Canada live in middle class families.
That’s why initiatives like the 2010 Alberta Early Years Conference, which is taking place in Edmonton on October 4, 5, and 6 are so important. The conference gives parents, caregivers, policy makers and front-line workers the opportunity to learn about new ways to support families with young children in our communities. It is also a great opportunity for people to learn about the importance of having high-quality programs that are accessible to all children no matter what their circumstances.
There are 53,619 children aged 0 to 6 years living in Edmonton, which means there are 53,619 children who deserve a chance. That’s why we all need to remember that children need support, encouragement and respect to grow to their full potential – and we each have a part to play!
Angela Wilson is a Communications Specialist with Success By 6®, a community initiative managed by United Way and is a soon-to-be baby mama.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2006. Starting Strong II: Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris, FR: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action. 2007. Hon. Margaret McCain, Norrie, J. Fraser Mustard, and Dr. Stuart Shanker, Toronto: Council for Early Childhood Development.
City of Edmonton, 2009 Census