As part of national Week of the Young Child, the United Way of Central Missouri is teaming up with partner agencies to celebrate young children and the people who make a difference in their lives.
The week is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the United Way hopes to stress the importance of early childhood education.
"Brain research tells us that the first five to six years of life are the most important years in development," said Avila Hendricks, an education professor at Lincoln University. "That means early education is critical if we want to help our children have a good start."
Hendricks' education students are assisting with Week of the Young Child events, including service learning activities at the kickoff, field day, Saturday's carnival and reading to children at Lincoln University's library. They are also hosting the appreciation banquet for childcare providers Thursday.
She said Lincoln University participates in Week of the Young Child every year.
"It's just important that children are exposed to different stimuli that help the brain make those connections," Hendricks said. "It gives a good start."
She said parent involvement is also key in early childhood education.
Childcare Aware of Central Missouri advances early childhood education by providing childcare training and workshops for anyone who takes care of children, including those licensed by the state.
Joanne Nelson, director of the agency, said her organization serves as a resource on childcare throughout the state, helping families find childcare, preschool and after-school programs for their children. The organization also works with childcare owners, directors and teachers to improve the quality of their programs, as well as provides business and civic leaders information on the value and the importance of childcare.
"We collaborate with them to make child care safe and enriching for all children," Nelson said.
She said it's important to note that early childhood education not only has an impact on children, but also the economy.
According to a report released in March by America's Edge, every $1 spent on early learning in Missouri generates an additional 87 cents in other sectors of the economy.
"It's because you've got so many people supporting the fact that early childhood is key," Nelson said. "You find that even Army generals are coming together saying we don't have the workforce smart enough to be in the Army or any type of military because they're just not smart enough.
"If we invest money in the early childhood portion, they're going to have the foundation for early learning as they move on through life."
She said the economy is also boosted when parents pay for some form of childcare. If workers have their children in good childcare, they're going to be more productive and able to do a better job at work.
"It's the return investment," Nelson said.
Childcare Aware of Central Missouri is also participating in Week of the Young Child festivities in Jefferson City.
They are helping coordinate the appreciation dinner and mailings.
"Since we work with all of the childcare providers and we have a database with that, we do all of the communications, especially in the Jefferson City area and surrounding area with Week of the Young Child," Nelson said.
Week of the Young Child events in Jefferson City
• Monday: 9:30 a.m., Born Learning Trail at Memorial Park, ribbon cutting to kick off the week
• Tuesday: 9:30-11:30 a.m., field day at Southwest Early Childcare Center, RSVP to Sasha at 659-3026
• Wednesday: 9:30-10:30 a.m., story time at Lincoln University's Page Library, RSVP to Lois Marshall at 681-5504
• Wednesday: 10-10:30 a.m., story time at Southwest Early Childcare Center, RSVP to Sasha at 659-3026
• Thursday: 6 p.m., appreciation banquet for childcare professionals at YMCA annex, $5, Call Theresa at 636-4100 for registration form
• Saturday: 9:30-11:30 a.m., kids carnival at Riverside Park