560 people strong, the third annual Fair Haven Family Stroll celebrates community and quality early childhood education.
What do two mayoral candidates (Henry Fernandez and Justin Elicker), three early childhood education centers (Alexis Hill Montessori, Friends Center for Children and Farnam Neighborhood House); the daughter of Jazz legend Cab Calloway; five bilingual health-conscious puppets; ballet company Dance with Sarah Kennedy; a crab; the New Haven Police and Fire Departments; and 560 moms, dads, grandparents, kids and neighbors have in common?
They all came together celebrate a festival and fundraiser for high-quality early childhood education at the third annual Fair Haven Family Stroll on Saturday May 4th.
Organized by Friends Center for Children and Alexis Hill Montessori, the festival spotlights the urgent need to increase access to high-quality early childhood education – a need that was highlighted by President Obama in his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013: “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.”
In the New Haven area, for every 100 families looking for an infant/toddler slot, only 2 slots are available. For preschool slots, the number is better (46 of 100) but of these, only 61% leave the programs ready for Kindergarten, reducing the number of high-quality slots to 27. The cost of high quality care (ranging from $1,200 - $1,800 per month) further decreases access.
Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country, meaning it has the greatest disparity in academic achievement between low income and non-low income students. The gap is officially measured through national testing by third grade, but studies confirm that this gap begins at a much earlier age: starting in infancy, widening during toddler and preschool years, and solidifying by the time a child enters kindergarten. A child from a low-income family hears an average of eight million fewer words per year than a child from a wealthier family. That’s more than 30 million fewer words by the time the child turns four.
Studies by Nobel laureate and early childhood education expert James Heckman show that early childhood education has the HIGHEST rate of return on each dollar invested when compared with all other stages of education. Heckman explained: "Early nurturing, learning experiences and physical health from birth to age five greatly impacts success or failure in society. The most economically efficient time to develop these skills and abilities is in the very early years when developmental education is most effective....enhancement and prevention through early childhood development is more life and cost-effective than remediation." Building on Heckman’s equation, President Obama said, “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”In terms of New Haven, the potential rate of return on one dollar invested is 14-17 dollars back.
At the State level, early childhood is on the docket as house bill 6359 – proposing the creation of a coordinated Office of Early Childhood – makes its way through the legislative process. The bill will increase coordination, accountability and efficiency by bringing early childhood programs and services from five agencies – including Care4Kids from DSS and Birth to Three from DDS – into one office that reports directly to the Governor. On May 14, the bill received unanimous approval from the legislature’s Children’s Committee.
Alexis Hill Montessori School and Friends Center for Children created the Family Stroll three years ago to increase awareness for high-quality early childhood education and raise funds to increase accessibility to their programs. Funds are raised through registration fees and pledges that parents and community members raised for the event’s namesake event: a stroll along the picturesque two-bridge Quinnipiac River loop.
In addition to the stroll, the festival included 20 tables/stations full of information and fun, and a host of hands-on activities that kept kids of all ages engaged: reading free books provided by the Fair Haven Branch library, blowing bubbles and hula hooping; playing under a giant parachute; drumming with Michael Mills and Cecelia Calloway of Drums no Guns; dancing with Sarah Kennedy; participating in an interactive puppet show by the Hispanic Health Council; and more!
Registered guests also received a neighborhood resource bag and entry into a raffle of thoughtful community offerings provided by Ferraro’s, Home Depot, Grand Vin, Elm City Market and more.
Event sponsors included Enfield Builders, The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, United Way, Seabury Hill Realty, Patriquin Architects, SCG/UI, New Haven Parks and Recreation, Leland Torrence Enterprises and Quinnipiac Avenue Marina.
Complete list of organizations that contributed activities and information to make the third annual Fair Haven Family Stroll a great success:
Friends Center for Children
Alexis Hill Montessori School
Farnam Neighborhood House
Hispanic Health Council
Drums no Guns
Dance with Sarah Kennedy
Fair Haven Library
CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement)
JUNTA for Progressive Action
Elm City Market
MCH Division of Health Department
New Haven Farms
Read to Grow
Fair Haven Community Health Center
The Sound School
New Haven Family Alliance
Street Smarts Campaign
Project Life, YSPH
108 Monkeys (yoga
New Haven Police Department
New Haven Fire Department