It’s a lot easier to build a playpen than a penitentiary, area faith leaders say. And it’s why they’re teaming with Smart Start of New Hanover County to launch a grassroots movement to invest in early childhood care and education. On Monday, nearly two hundred community leaders, teachers and parents met at Wilmington’s First Baptist Activity Center to discuss ways to improve the first 2,000 days—or five years—of local children’s lives.
Those 2,000 days--when the brain is at its most plastic and receptive—are crucial determinants of a child’s learning abilities, health and success. They also impact North Carolina’s future economic security and competitiveness. This is according to pediatricians, early childhood experts, and Clifford Barnett, pastor of Wilmington’s AME Zion Church. Barnett is now challenging concerned citizens to commit to action—such as writing a legislator or starting a children’s book drive—within the next 2,000 hours.
"What I hope happens from today is that we get people to run the ball. Now they’ve got the information. We used to say the statement, ‘When you know better, you do better.’ So now that people know better—they’ve been exposed to some things—they’re gonna take it and pass it on. Pass it to their own communities, their own churches, their own civic groups, their own clubs. Talk about it around the water cooler—those kinds of things."
Barnett says faith leaders are uniquely positioned to impact early childhood by working to improve the quality of church child care, and by recognizing when children are exposed to violence, and other forms of developmentally damaging emotional trauma, at home.
***To learn more about the First 2,000 Days, click here.