Parents in west Georgia and east Alabama now have a new resource to help their babies and toddlers learn before they enter school.
The new program being offered is the first of its kind in both states, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
More than 150 community leaders and education officials gathered recently at Columbus State University to launch "The Basics Chattahoochee Valley." It's the local version of an awareness campaign that began in Boston four years ago. Since then, it has spread to about 30 communities across the nation.
Columbus 2025, a five-year strategic plan created by local community leaders, is bringing "The Basics" to the west Georgia city to address one of its five goals: developing more talented and educated people.
The stakes are high, Muscogee County School District Superintendent David Lewis said.
If a community is aware of a need as severe and crucial as improving the school readiness of its children, then failing to address that need is like doctors being at risk of medical malpractice if they ignore obvious signs, Lewis said.
"We now know better," he said. "Let's all get together and do better on behalf of our children — please."
The Basics Chattahoochee Valley has a website and Facebook and Instagram pages with free advice — through text and video, in English and Spanish — about how to provide an effective learning environment at home.
Advertising will be done via public buses, social media and printed materials, such as posters in waiting rooms at doctor's offices, bookmarks at libraries and handouts at service providers, said Tabetha Getz, the executive director of Columbus 2025. Information also will be sent home from childcare centers and schools, she said.
The program includes five tips for parents:
— Maximize love, manage stress: "Babies and toddlers thrive when their world feels loving, safe and predictable," this guideline says. "Respond with smiles, words and touch to help them see, hear and feel your love. You will help them develop a sense of security and self-control."
— Talk, sing and point: "Babies learn language from the moment they are born," this guideline says. "Respond to their sounds and later their words. Connect with eye contact and a loving tone of voice while pointing to help them know what you are talking about."
— Count, group and compare: "Every child's brain is wired for math," this guideline says. "Talk about numbers, shapes, patterns and comparisons as you go about your routines together. Watch your child learn to love math."
— Explore through movement and play: "Babies are like scientists who love making discoveries," this guideline says. "Watch to see what interests your child, then encourage their curiosity and help them learn when they play and explore."
— Read and discuss stories: "Reading turns kids into confident thinkers," this guideline says. "Make books a regular part of your relationship from the very beginning. With infants, point at the pictures and speak with excitement. With toddlers, just make it fun."