In the Nation's Interest
Business Champions for the Advancement of Early Childhood Education Spotlight: Patrick A. Bond, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh
Patrick A. Bond, Chairman of Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, is a Business Champion for CED's Early Childhood Education initiative, which collaborates with business leaders and education experts to increase the quality, access, and affordability of early learning opportunities for all children across the country.
Below are some of his thoughts on the importance of early childhood education.
1. How did you become interested in the early education sector?
Shortly after the birth of our first child, my wife and I read The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. The author’s common-sense approach to engaging children with the joy of reading from birth impressed us both. It inspired her to found Read Aloud West Virginia https://readaloudwestvirginia.org/, a non-profit designed to motivate children to want to read and encourage lifetime rather than class or test time only readers. My experiences as a volunteer reader with the organization convinced me that if we truly want to change education, we must begin in those early years. I realized that many children enter their first classroom woefully behind their peers. Time and money spent in leveling the playing field during those early years when children are most receptive to learning and do not have a fixed mindset results in lifetime dividends.
2. What role should business leaders and the business community have in early education?
Business leaders should support and talk about early education for what it is -- an investment in the workforce of the future. Those workers will influence the future health and strength of our economy.
Research shows that quality matters in early education, so if a school or community doesn't do it right, they might as well save their money and not do it at all. Business leaders can be community leaders in assuring this type of quality. Terms such as key performance indicators and return on investment, typically associated with successful enterprises, are completely at home in the realm of early education. Business leaders can endorse, and financially support policies, programs, educators and even candidates that get it when it comes to early education.
Business leaders have a respected voice on topics of employment, workforce readiness and economic growth. When they lend that voice to overcome the uninformed voices who dismiss early education as "just babysitting," they are heard.
3. How have early childhood education issues changed over time, and how can the business community help solve them?
The biggest changes in the last 30 years are in research. Parents, teachers and librarians have long noticed that children who are read to tend to read more themselves and, in turn, enjoy more school success. As school success is strongly correlated with success throughout life, this was a compelling reason to encourage reading to children as well reading themselves.
However, advances in technology and brain science have allowed researchers to ask and answer ever more specific questions about what we see in our own families and schools:
- There was famous research completed in the 1960s identifying the “30 million word gap”, suggesting that children from low-income backgrounds tend to hear, and therefore know, far fewer words than wealthier children by the time they enter school. Since the size of a child's spoken vocabulary is important to learning to read, the research results led to efforts to encourage adults to read to children and to improve children's vocabularies.
- Additional research suggests that people who read fiction develop more empathy toward others in real life, and separate research has documented that socialization is another important ingredient in school success. Learning empathy through reading is important for young students as well as adults.
- The growing body of research is so compelling that in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that parents regularly read to children from birth through at least kindergarten. The pediatricians noted that children who are read to have stronger relationships with parents and gain valuable language and literacy skills.
- Pediatricians have continued to study reading and technology which now lets them monitor brain activity while children are being read to. In 2015 they published results of monitoring 3-to 5-year-olds. They observed activity in brain areas used in narrative comprehension and visual imagery, both important for language and literacy. Their findings reinforce the claim that reading helps the developing brain.
- Just this fall, Read Aloud West Virginia received anecdotal word from a pediatric intensive care unit, where a volunteer was reading to an infant, the baby's heart rate slowed to what caregivers called "a relaxed state."
CED's spotlights reflect the views of the individual and/or company spotlighted and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of CED.