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Blueprints for Babies, and Other Young Children

July 19, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Twenty-three cities and towns in Connecticut have developed detailed plans - called "blueprints" - for quality care and education of young children. In New Haven, early childhood education advocates won a $500,000 per year federal grant to expand the number of slots for the youngest children.

Jennifer Heath with the United Way of Greater New Haven notes that these programs benefit more than just the little ones in the classroom.

"One of the things about Early Head Start - similar to Head Start - is that both programs provide not only child care, but also a great deal of support for families."

Educators from New Haven, New Britain and Torrington will present their blueprints at a statewide conference today at Central Connecticut State University, New Britain. Called "Healthy, Safe and Ready to Learn," it also will feature Joan Lombardi, the federal official in charge of early education for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Advocates in New Britain were surprised to find a correlation between reading scores and children's health. Students there had the lowest third-grade reading scores in the state two out of the last three years. Yvette Highsmith Francis, director of community health centers in Hartford County, says 30 percent of the city's 4-year-olds are obese, with potentially serious consequences.

"The whole gamut of factors - lethargy, fatigue and energy level for a child, and the social stigma connected to all of that - has an impact and plays a role in a child's success in the classroom."

New Britain's blueprint brought together health professionals and educators to solve these problems. Nineteen other communities in the state are currently working on their blueprints.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT