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Excel by Eight, part of Arkansas’ Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR), focuses on improving health and educational outcomes for children in Arkansas. While this grant-funded program serves six specific counties, a united goal exists for all Arkansas families and communities to have what they need to help children thrive from the beginning.
Excel by Eight (E8) expanded the main goals of AR-GLR as they realized a third-grade reading level begins with the proper child development in the first three years of life. While the organization has been around since 2011, a shift in the focus to early childhood development has earned national recognition for parent involvement, community engagement, school readiness, classroom attendance and summer learning.
Excel by Eight took their focus areas and built a reliable resource grid for families and communities across Arkansas.
In each of these focus communities, educators, local health care workers, social workers and other child development officials work together to take the resource grid and identify gaps in the local community. These gaps become a plan built to make changes for children and those who raise, teach and influence them.
In addition to a local community Task Force, the E8 Foundation works with policymakers to keep early childhood development and family support at the forefront of new policies and community funding. The E8 Foundation gains momentum by three core values – healthy beginnings, healthy families and high-quality child care that leads to early learning. Moving beyond simple inclusion practices, E8 works to lead the way with prenatal services, early childhood well visit benchmarks, creating access to therapy services, and supporting working parents needing safe, local child care options.
The organization can leverage the power of change through their statewide Steering Committee and use those relationships to make more extensive changes for these smaller, rural communities needing access to care, prenatal screenings, development trackers and general resource knowledge.
The most significant growth in the language and communication centers of the brain happens in the first year of life, between ages 2 and 5, higher cognitive function development peaks. This part of brain development is essential to executive function skills such as focus, ignoring distractions, prioritizing, organizing and planning, adapting to the unexpected, problem-solving, getting along and working as a team, and keeping our emotions under control. In addition, these executive function skills are crucial to success in the workplace. So, early childhood protection and growth are critical factors to developing local community economic and workforce development in the future.
Arkansas early childhood development factors:
It is easy for those not actively raising young children not to notice the changes and development that happen in their first three years and how those milestones catalyze each next step. These changes and challenges apply to grandchildren, co-workers and employees’ children, children at church, and the table next to us in a restaurant. As community members, we all play a role in developing the next generation, and engaged communities provide ample opportunity for children to learn and grow.
Excel by Eight offers all its resources to any community in Arkansas. As plans flourish in their current six counties, a new focus will come in other regions. But any community can use the grid as a model for local conversations and early childhood development plans. For more information, follow E8 on social media, sign up for their newsletter or visit their blog for resources and articles about development successes.
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