Wednesday, April 15, 2015

An Ounce of Prevention: Getting off to a good start in Somerville

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This old saying is a guiding principle behind early childhood initiatives world wide: get children off to a good start - right from the start- and avoid more costly and complex efforts later on.  The Ounce of Prevention Fund recently held a summit in Chicago to engage district leaders across the U.S. in conversations about developing innovative, comprehensive systems of early education and care. Somerville was there to share strategies for strong community partnerships that support Birth-Grade 3 alignment. David Jacobson invited Somerville to participate in the summit and highlights the importance of community-district partnerships in his most recent blog. 

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Adam Sweeting, Regina Bertholdo, and Mayor Joe Curtatone
Part of this ounce of prevention is advocacy - gathering voices who can speak for children when they cannot do so themselves.  Speakers at the April 14 Week of the Young Child event at city hall advocated for our youngest citizens. Mayor Joe Curtatone emphasized the importance of community in building a liveable city where all children are ready for school.  School committee chair Adam Sweeting talked about building a system of early education that includes all the programs in our city - both public schools and community-based centers and childcare. 

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Somerville resident, Professor Emerita at Lesley University, and a founder of Defending the Early Years, talked about how schools are places where children learn to become citizens in a democracy and that even our youngest students can do this. She told us what it looks like:
  • Learning how to be a member of a group (Hey, these blocks aren’t “mine,” everyone can use them.)
  • Making decisions that benefit the whole group (How do we figure out how to feed the goldfish so everyone has a turn and it’s fair?)
  • Learning about our diverse world and to respect everyone equally (How we look different, speak different languages; we are all valuable)
  • Learning how to resolve our conflicts (We both want this yellow ball right now—how can we figure this out?)
Voting for favorite playground elements.
Today our children voted, toured city hall, created artwork, saw police and rescue vehicles up close, and even listened (mostly) attentively to grownups talk about policy.  High school students gave us a fanfare on their trumpets and stood to remind us of children's rights. 

Reading children's rights.
Our superintendent, Tony Pierantozzi, has led the way in Somerville by forging strong connections between our public schools and those who provide a range of services to children and families. This was evident today. We hope that the messages from the Week of the Young Child will stay with us all year as we work together to make Somerville a great place to be a child.

Fanfare for the Week of the Young Child proclamation