All Children Deserve an Early Advantage

Deborah Kong, the president of an Oakland nonprofit educational policy advocacy group, says kids, regardless of income, need quality child care, preschool, and improved parental and teacher engagement for success.


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Early education engagement can lead to success in kindergarten and well beyond.

Photo by downing.amanda (CC)

Deborah Kong helps California’s youngest learners get what they need to embark on successful paths to college and career.

Kong is president of Early Edge California, an Oakland-based nonprofit educational policy advocacy organization dedicated to improving the first eight years of kids’ lives. That period is when children establish the foundations for their cognitive learning skills, social and emotional capacities, and how they engage in school and learning. Early Edge works to improve children’s educational experiences by laying groundwork—most often in the form of legislation—that will result in quality child care, preschool, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and early elementary grades, specifically through the end of third grade.

Kong, mother of a child the age of the population she serves, works to expand services for this age group. She favors home visits for new families, particularly stressed-out new moms, as well as screenings for early detection of emotional, physical, and other problems that can create problems in the classroom. It is especially critical, she said, for parents, families, teachers, and child-care providers to understand the value of educational engagement.

 “If you don’t do that by age 4, the average low-income child will be 18 months behind,” she said.

Far too many children start educational careers at a disadvantage: They don’t know the alphabet, their numbers, or how to hold a pencil or use scissors. They can’t sit still, focus, manage emotions, or negotiate conflict. “Those things are so important for when he goes to kindergarten,” she said. Quality child care and preschool and an early emphasis on parental and teacher involvement go a long way in readying kids. Civic Drawing Board asks residents to identify a concrete idea or idea that would improve their town.

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