On March 22, 2023, hundreds gathered at the Minnesota Capitol for Advocacy for Children Day. For the past 20 years, children, parents, early childhood educators, advocates, and elected officials have gathered in the rotunda to set a policy agenda that prioritizes the needs of children. This year’s priorities were addressing the needs of over 35,000 Minnesota children who do not have access to affordable, quality early education and supporting families in a holistic, sustainable manner.
Minnesota public officials who supported and participated in the Advocacy for Children Day included St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Senator Steve Cwodzinski, Representative Lisa Demuth, Representative Heather Keeler, Senator Bobby Joe Champion, Senator John Hoffman, Councilmember Rebecca Noecker, Representative María Isa Pérez-Vega, and Representative Dave Pinto.
During Advocacy for Children Day, I shared about the work of Planting People Growing Justice in supporting early learning. Our organization is committed to growing futures. One book at a time and one child at a time. This is personal and important to me. As a civil rights attorney, many of my clients learned how to read in prison. This is unacceptable but somehow, we created a Rule of 4:
• One in four American children has not learned how to read. If you are not reading at grade level by fourth grade, you are four times more likely to drop out of school. There is also a connection to future incarceration. Students who drop out are three and a half times more likely to be arrested during their lifetime.
Investing in early learning
There is an opportunity for change. This change begins with early learning. At Planting People Growing Justice, we are supporting our children and families on their learning journey.
How do we do this?
1) We help children to discover joy in reading by promoting early literacy and diversity in books. We are creating mirrors (for diverse children to see a positive representation of themselves on the pages of books) and windows (for all children to build bridges across cultures).
2) We support parents in their roles as their child’s first educator. We know 0-3 is a critical stage for learning. The brain is like sponge that is absorbing learning. According to the Itasca Project, “80 percent of a child’s brain foundation is formed within the first 1,000 days of life.”
3) We are helping parents to create make learning a part of the daily home routine. We are encouraging parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes per day, five days a week.
According to researchers Nagy and Herman, in just one year, parents will expose their child to 1.8 million words.
4) We are creating access to quality early learning in new and creative ways. One such example is the R.A.W. Library created by the African American Babies Coalition. We built an interactive learning library that focuses on reading, arithmetic, and writing.
How can you make a difference?
You can advocate for funding for early learning from the state. This is an investment in a brighter Minnesota as we focus on growing futures.
Through this funding, we can create new pipelines for the future that eliminates racial inequities and economic disparities while working to end mass incarceration.
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.
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