Another Gift, for Every Day
    by John Cech

Along with its theme parks and sunny beaches, Florida is offering families across the nation something even more vital and important this year -- an exemplary program for providing a comprehensive spectrum of information for parents, potential parents, and any adults concerned with the health and care of young children. The idea of finding ways to make a wide range of essential information easily available to families is the combined brainchild of United Way's Success by Six program and The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, which is based in Miami, and which is dedicated to the idea of making sure that all children, whatever their communities, get off to the same start in their early years. As David Lawrence, the President of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and the former Publisher of The Miami Herald and Detroit Free Press explains: "Perhaps 30 percent of our Miami-Dade County children between birth and 5 years of age will enter the first grade behind. It's absolutely tragic so many children get a poor start in life -- and so many of them never recover."

The efforts of United Way and the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation have resulted in an invaluable, user-friendly website: teachmorelovemore.org -- which not only provides basic information on a variety of health and nurturing subjects, but offers links to other sites for further details, and access to a 24-hour-a-day hotline for parents and care-givers who have questions about the welfare of their children. The hotline, like the public service spots for the program that are run on television in the Miami area, are provided in three languages -- English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. The program also sends every new parent in the Miami area home from the hospital or birthing center with a packet of information that alerts them to the children's services and other resources in the area as well as urging them to begin reading to their children right away. To this end, included in the take-home pouch is a baby board book about numbers by Rebecca Emberly, that is also tri-lingual, and that will tell you that "four hearts" are also " cuatro corazones" and "kat kč." What better way to to start crossing these boundaries (of neighborhoods, language groups, and economics) than with hearts -- to go hand in hand with the hard, visionary work of caring about (and then doing something truly significant for) the youngest, most vulnerable ones in our communities.

Copyright 2002 © John Cech

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Monday, 16-Dec-2002 15:15:54 EST

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."