Who Cares?

Who cares about early childhood? Here is a short survey of groups of people who care passionately:

Business Leaders
The Partnership for America’s Economic Success is perhaps the highest profile group of business leaders who advocate for, and invest in, early childhood interventions. They understand the research well: the best predictor of future productive participation in the workforce is early childhood experience.

Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman argues eloquently for early childhood nurture on the basis of economic return to society. His studies have shown a 10% annual rate of return on investment for high quality early childhood interventions. In his words, “Early advantages accumulate; so do early disadvantages. ”

Foundations and wealthy individuals want their giving to count. There is a growing cadre of philanthropists who have seen the extraordinarily high social yield of investing in young children. For example, the Douglas & Maria DeVos Foundation pioneered Believe to Become in Grand Rapids, MI, knitting together family intervention, health care, and public schools; the George Kaiser Family Foundation is attacking systemic poverty through interventions in early childhood and public health in Tulsa, OK; the Ounce of Prevention Fund has catalyzed investment and innovation in Chicago; and the Pritzker Family Foundation founded the First Five Years Fund to advance research and practice of early learning.

Educational Researchers
There is a large body of research showing that parent involvement is the single best predictor of a child’s educational achievement, and that brain development is activity dependent. Zero to Three is a national advocacy and education group that has connected the dots between early nurture, brain development and long-term outcomes. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard is an outstanding research group that examines everything from neuroscience to the effectiveness of particular interventions.

Military Leaders
Mission Readiness was founded by retired top military brass to address the current crisis of qualification for service: “Today, 75 percent of 17 to 24-year-olds do not meet the basic minimum standards required for military service.” They have recognized that the single most effective way to improve the health and education of American citizens – and thereby their qualification to serve in the military – is through early childhood interventions.

Educational Entrepreneurs
Geoffrey Canada is the founder and chief executive of the much acclaimed Harlem Children’s Zone. According to the New York Times’ David Brooks, Canada’s work is the educational equivalent of the cure for cancer. What is the secret? The Baby College, a nine-week parent education and support program for expectant parents and parents with children under age 3. It is the the cornerstone of the Zone, the best of early childhood parent engagement in practice.

Parent Educators
Parents as Teachers is the largest parent engagement and education organization in the United States, dedicated to providing information, support and encouragement parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. Their work has dramatically improved the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children.

Parents of Young Children
It isn’t just educators, researchers, and lobbyists who care about early childhood. It is a pressing issue for parents, especially for those who make parenting their vocation and wonder, “Does it really matter?” Parents care because they want to know why their work matters, and what they can and should do to love their children well.

How does this book serve all these audiences?
Experts get it. They invest their time, money and passion in these critical years. But often the rest of us don’t. This book is intentionally popular (rather than scholarly) in order to make the most important scholarly work accessible to ordinary people who can and do influence the wellbeing of their own children, and those of others. To that end, The Apprenticeship of Being Human:

  1. Provides a simple, compelling metaphor that explains the disproportionate influence of early childhood nurture.
  2. Makes and defends the claim that parents play the most important role in a flourishing human society, and that they wield their greatest influence in the earliest years of their children’s lives.
  3. Restores the public recognition of the responsibility – and dignity – of parenting.
  4. Reaches vast audiences of parents, educators, health professionals and legislators who don’t yet recognize the influence of parenting in the early years.