NORWALK, Conn. – The effort to ensure that Norwalk’s youngest children get the right start in life passed a milestone Wednesday morning with the launch of a four-year action plan developed by the Norwalk Early Childhood Council.
About 40 community leaders met at City Hall to begin work under the 2012-2016 Norwalk Early Childhood Action Plan, which is based on the results of efforts made from 2007 to 2010.
Mary Oster, who was hired as the city’s first early childhood coordinator in 2010, invited guests to take home the 60-page plan and digest it. The group listened to a reader’s digest version presented in a PowerPoint.
Goal one focuses on early care and education, including workers and volunteers reaching out to families and encouraging kindergarten enrollment. Goal two is childhood health, with an emphasis on prenatal care, childhood obesity and dental care, as well as publicizing resources.
Goal Three is family support and safety and includes strengthening existing programs, such as Reach out and Read and Parents as Teachers.
Oster said children who visit Norwalk Community Health are prescribed a book by their doctor. Volunteers read books to children in the waiting area, and encourage parents to bond with their children through reading.
In another effort, the curriculum for young children, from pre-K to third grade, is being aligned. The state is expected to release similar standards in the fall, which will be aligned with Common Core State Standards, a revolutionary switch to a nationwide standard for education.
Oster also said an existing program at the Stepping Stone Museum for Children, Parent Zone workshops, is being tinkered with.
“We’re experimenting a little bit and have put in a different curriculum,” Oster said. “We’re having parents calling multiple times and getting parents to come more than just once. We really are creating kind of a nice, continuous learning experience for the families.”
State Sen. Bob Duff said there are “startling statistics out there” showing that children who grow up in housing projects enter kindergarten without being ready. “We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that all of our children have access to early childhood education,” he said.
Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona echoed that thought.
“Early childhood is so important in education,” he said. “It’s so true: if we don’t get it right in the beginning we have lost many lives. What I like about this plan is you’re dealing with families. It’s not just in isolation … you need to be commended for that. This is Norwalk. We all come together for a very important cause that is something you don’t see that often.”