Today begins the national “Celebrate the Baby Week” campaign which aims to place a focus on important policy, community and family issues within our state. With this week focusing on keeping early childhood development in mind, it is a perfect time to stop and think about one important question: Do kids count in Oklahoma?
As much as 90% of brain development happens before a child turns 5 years old. The period of development occurring between birth and 8 years is crucial to ensuring a child’s maturing brain has the sturdy foundation required for lifelong success. Without the necessary support, children fail to reach their full cognitive and social potential, often resulting in poor health, education and economic participation as adults.
Data shows us that Oklahoma is lagging behind in early childhood development. The KIDS COUNT Data Center reveals:
- 13% of OK children 1-5 years old live in households where family members read to them less than 3 days per week;
- 42% of OK children 3-5 years old are not enrolled in nursery school, Pre-K or Kindergarten;
- Nearly 1 in 4 OK fourth graders (73%) are not proficient in reading and 67% are not proficient in math; and
- OK ranks 40th in the nation for per pupil spending.
These statistics are alarming and paint a bleak picture for the future of our state. Too often in Oklahoma, children are forgotten when it comes time to create sound policies and make investments in our future. We must focus on building the positive connections and protective factors which help to support the most vulnerable members of our community. We must also allocate the resources needed to sustain the economic growth essential for our state to thrive.
As we quickly approach another legislative session and election year, we urge you to keep children in mind and advocate for policies that promise our children and our state a brighter tomorrow.