Why Birth to Age 3
Why focus attention on the first three years of life?
…because early childhood experiences - good and bad - have lifelong effects.
Researchers, including Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, have found that disadvantaged children who receive quality early childhood education:
- Achieve greater literacy
- Receive higher grades
- Are more likely to graduate from high school
- Are less likely to commit a crime
- Have fewer teen pregnancies
Research by Heckman and others shows the importance of birth to age 3
- By age 3, the brain has developed to 80% of its adult volume. Early education - or the lack of it - correlates with significantly higher or lower IQ scores for children tested at age 5, a difference which is still valid at age 21.
- Love and learning are intimately interwoven in the first three years of life. Early life experiences have a long-term impact on a child's emotional state, ability to socialize, and capacity to learn. Qualities including resilience, persistence, and the ability to work well with others - all key to success throughout life - are shaped by the earliest interactions.
- The effect of a parent's care - nurturing and stimulating or abusive and neglectful - lasts a lifetime. Children are most sensitive to both positive and negative influences between birth and age 3.
- The benefits of a good beginning extend through life, so they affect society as a whole. According to Heckman, a society's investment in early childhood more than pays for itself. He says, "Every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education produces a 7 to 10 percent per annum return on investment.”
- Early experiences can translate into school readiness, academic success, and lifetime well-being. “Success builds upon success, " Heckman says.”When more children in a community are ready to learn, community-wide levels of human and social capital rise."