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Provider Appreciation Day

May 6, 2011

NEW YORK - Today, the Friday before Mother's Day, is Provider Appreciation Day - a day set aside to honor nearly 3 million early-child-care professionals across the nation who teach America's youngest students.

Children don't "start" learning at age 5, says Jan Barbieri, executive director of the Child Care Council of Nassau, and that's why the 120,000 professionals who provide early care and education to preschoolers in the state of New York have such a major impact on both their brain development and social skills.

"The impact that early-childhood educators have on children's lives lasts with them forever. It's a life skill that they'll have with them going forward from the day that walk into that public school."

Provider Appreciation Day was started in 1996 by a group of volunteers in New Jersey. Barbieri says she hopes to see the day in New York when access to early education is universal, and decisionmakers put it on equal footing with primary school.

In recent years, Barbieri says, researchers have learned a lot more about how important brain development is during the first five years of a child's life. That's why she advocates taking time out to salute providers for the impact they have on New York children.

"They're getting the social-emotional nurturing that they need. When a child is nurtured, and a child is with somebody who really knows how to provide quality care, they are helping these children not only be ready for school but for life."

More than 17,000 people work in early child care on Long Island, Barbieri says, and they have an estimated positive economic impact of more than $600 million - both from those that work in the profession and the mothers and fathers who are able to work because their children are in child care.

More related New York statistics are online at government.cce.cornell.edu. More on Provider Appreciation Day is online at providerappreciationday.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY