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Letter: Invest in the future by reading to your kids

Posted: July 9, 2014 - 11:04pm

I hope you didn’t miss the excellent article in the July 7 Alaska Dispatch News opinion section (“Read to Your Baby Right From the Start”). Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that it is asking its 62,000 members to tell new parents to read to their children beginning at birth. For the first time, children’s doctors will promote early literacy as part of a standard of care.

This groundbreaking step by a respected medical association adds a formal endorsement of and pathway for delivery of this critical information: What happens in children’s early brain development effects them for the rest of their life. As a parent of five and spouse of a former elementary school teacher and librarian, I’ve long recognized what early childhood advocates have worked so hard to promote: A strong start in life contributes to successful cognitive and social-emotional skills.

This irrefutable understanding should form the basis of Alaska’s education policies and spending. When I served on the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn task force, chaired by First Lady Nancy Murkowski, we learned that nearly half of the children who enter school are unprepared to read or learn. We can change that dismal statistic.

Alaska should be a committed partner in providing a mix of early childhood supports. Pre-school should be available for low or no cost to every family who wants it. Support for parents, such as modeled by the Best Beginnings coalition, should be available to any family. The state, alongside businesses and foundations, should ensure that every new Alaskan is enrolled in the Imagination Library, which mails a book a month to youngsters from birth until age 5.

I am the only candidate for governor who has stated unequivocally that education is my number one priority. Why? Because it grows everything else: capable, productive citizens; innovation; and a skilled workforce — all of which contribute to a robust economy. Early childhood learning, which can pave the path to graduation, also reduces public costs associated with incarceration, joblessness and poor health. That’s a win-win.

Thank you American Academy of Pediatrics, All-Alaska Pediatric Partnership and Best Beginnings for pushing the best investment we can make.

Byron Mallott

Candidate for Governor

Juneau

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