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First 8 Years Give TN Children Foundation for Success

PHOTO: In order for children in Tennessee and across the country to succeed, it's critical that they have support in areas such as education and health in their first eight years. Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
PHOTO: In order for children in Tennessee and across the country to succeed, it's critical that they have support in areas such as education and health in their first eight years. Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
November 5, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new report says the first eight years of a child's life are the most critical in determining if he or she will go on to success or perhaps struggle throughout life, and that's why investments are needed.

According to Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the strategy must focus on all aspects of a child's well being from health to education to the financial stability of the family.

"We need to create a comprehensive, coordinated approach that starts with improving parenting for infants and toddlers,” she insists, “and continues through prekindergarten and elementary school programs to really give children the opportunities to succeed and to ensure a brighter future, not only for those children but for the economic prosperity of the state."

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that for third graders, nearly two in three are behind in terms of cognitive development. The figures for low-income and minority children are even worse.

In Tennessee, O'Neal says more than half of children live in poverty or in families considered low income, and that's why the efforts on behalf of children also need to support their parents.

"Young children succeed when their parents have the opportunity to support them, to provide them with the nurturing and the learning opportunities,” she explains. “So we're talking about real threats for the future of Tennessee if we don't figure out ways to provide the coordinated and integrated services to help parents succeed and help children succeed."

The report suggests improvements in the transition from preschool to elementary school, which can include data sharing.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN