Early Steps to School Success

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Growing Up in America

All children are born ready to learn, but for 15 million children living in poverty in America, they enter school unready to succeed.

Before even walking through the classroom door, American children living in poverty have already fallen behind in school. By age 4, children from low-income families are up to 18 months behind their peers developmentally.

A child's brain is already 80% formed by age 3; 90% by age 5. But children in poverty are less likely to attend preschool and often live in households where early learning activities are few and far between.

The best way to ensure all children have a fair chance at a brighter future is to give each child the opportunity to learn and grow early on. Our Early Steps to School Success program lays a critical foundation of language and literacy skills for children from birth to age 5, so they can enter school ready to succeed.

Through home visits, book exchanges, parenting groups, and an emphasis on transition to school, Early Steps staff helps children with language, social and emotional development, and equips parents and caregivers with the skills to successfully support children's growth.

Jennifer Garner Advocates for Education

Jennifer Garner, actor and mother of three, has been an advocate for Save the Children's early education programs. In places like Garner's home state of West Virginia, where generational poverty is a barrier to children's success, early childhood education is fundamental to breaking the cycle of poverty. "[Advocating], to me, is one of the most important actions we can undertake," she said. Together, Save the Children and Jennifer Garner are working to ensure that every child in America has access to quality education from cradle to cap and gown.

2014 Jennifer Garner visit to West Virginia with Nicholas Kristof.

Actor Jennifer Garner visits a family from West Virginia who are participants of a Save the Children reading program. Photo by Nicholas Kristof.

Success Story

Serenity and Breanne. Photo by Susan Warner 2016

"My husband and I both read to her, but now she grabs the books and plays like she's reading to herself, using her imagination and making up words," says Breanne. - Photo: Susan Warner/Save the Children 2016

Meet Breanne, Serenity and Jesse

Just a few days after now-1-year-old Serenity was born, her mother Breanne was already beginning to prepare Serenity for her first day of school.

To some, this seemed odd and way too early. But through her participation in Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program with Serenity’s big brother Jesse, 3, Breanne discovered that a child’s early learning experiences can play a major role in whether an individual reaches his or her full potential.

"She’s talking already and is up to eight or nine words. I love it when she says, 'Mom, help me! Help me!' I also love that she has already learned about the importance of books. She really enjoys books, and she likes to share her books with everyone. Maybe she’ll be a librarian or a teacher someday." Says Breanne.

Early Steps provides quality early learning through home visits, book exchanges and parenting groups that help ensure children 0 to 5 years old develop the language and literacy skills needed to enter school ready to succeed. Our staff members also teach parents and caregivers ways to best support their children's individual needs and growth. And, when kids like Serenity’s big brother Jesse need special help with language, social or emotional development, we provide that as well.

If it weren't for Save the Children's Early Steps to School Success Program, mom Breanne might have never heard her son Jesse say the words "I love you." Jesse didn't speak for the first two years of his life. But thanks to speech therapy and other learning services, Jesse will be able to wake up Breanne and shout "I LOVE YOU" on Mother's Day 2017 morning.

Jesse and his baby sister Serenity are two of more than 1,600 Colorado children currently receiving the high-quality early educations needed for their brains to fully develop, as well as for them to have the level of language and literacy skills they'll need to be successful when they enter school. Closing the achievement gap before it starts is the primary goal of the Early Steps program. But what moms like Breanne primarily see is a program that helps ensure their children's brightest possible futures.

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