Early Years Are Learning Years
The demand for early childhood care and education programs continues to increase not only in response to the growing demand for out-of-home child care but also in recognition of the critical importance of educational experiences during the early years. Several decades of research clearly demonstrate that high-quality; developmentally appropriate early childhood programs produce short- and long-term positive effects on children's cognitive and social development.
NAEYC and Illinois AEYC members, most of whom work directly with young children and families, see daily the toll of ill-conceived policies on the lives of the children and families we serve. Existing programs have too often taken fragmented, piecemeal approaches to the complex issues facing children and families. Effective policies have seldom been funded at sufficient levels to provide adequate support to all families who might benefit.
NAEYC and Illinois AEYC believe that our nation is at a crossroads. We must develop an integrated system of early childhood care and education that includes comprehensive approaches that directly involve families and communities in program design, implementation, and evaluation. We can invest now in our children and families and enjoy long-term savings, with a more vibrant nation of healthy, achieving children and more stable families. Or, we can fail to make the investment and pay the price: increased delinquency, greater educational failures, lowered productivity, less economic competitiveness, and fewer adults prepared to be effective, loving parents to the next generation of children. Federal, state and local government, communities, parents, and the private sector must share in the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of children and families.
Our nation can and must do better to create opportunities that help all children and families succeed. The time for action is now.