Jackie Bezos of the Bezos Family Foundation delivered the keynote address at the State of the Children event.
Houston’s children are not prepared to start school, leading to achievement gaps and lost potential.
The brain’s architecture develops most rapidly before the age of five. According to the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, this development establishes “either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all of the learning, health and behavior that follow.” Good learning environments and positive interactions lead to stimulating brain development, which results in solid citizens who build productive communities and prosperous cities.
Unfortunately, children in Houston are currently unprepared for kindergarten, leading to achievement gaps, social costs and losses in productivity:
• 60% are not ready for letter identification,
• 62% are not ready for counting,
• 78% are not ready for number recognition, and
• 59% are not ready to write their names.
Local conditions influence a child’s brain architecture early in life. Within the United States, Texas suffers from rising income inequality and has a growing income gap. In Greater Houston, a region where finding a good job increasingly requires specialized training, young children are not receiving sufficient stimulation to promote learning and development, and too few students are completing a degree or certificate after graduating high school. Houston ranks behind many other commuting zones in the United States in providing economic opportunity for low-income children. No child’s trajectory should be determined at birth or their future written off by kindergarten. Our challenge is to provide a better early learning foundation for our children.