On Wednesday morning, Plainfield school and city officials joined students, teachers, and parents to kick off the 28th annual Month of the Young Child.
“We’ve met the needs of these students by providing a high quality learning environment,” emphasized Director of Early Childhood Evelyn Motley on the steps of City Hall. Plainfield’s Early Childhood program has been called a model in New Jersey.
Apparently the reputation has gone beyond the Garden State, as Representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be visiting Plainfield from Seattle next month to observe. “They’d like to know what high quality preschool looks like,” said Motley, who stressed the need for a village to prepare children “not only for the next grade, but for life.”
Superintendent Anna-Belin-Pyles concurred, highlighting the importance of preschool on student outcomes. “High-quality preschool has been proven to help children succeed in school and graduate from high school,” said the superintendent. “Children who attend quality, full-day preschools are less likely to repeat a grade or need expensive special education services … saving taxpayer dollars by getting children on an early path to academic success.”
Board of Education President Wilma Campbell took an opportunity to thank those who do the work. “We must continue, as members of this community, to support our programs,” exclaimed Campbell. “We need to be shouting ‘thank you’ to the early childhood staff who continue to work to make opportunities for our children to be successful.”
Representing the Mayor’s Office, Plainfield Finance Director Ron West renewed his pledge to continue to read to young children as he’s done since he joined the Mapp Administration. “Education is the keystone to success and being able to maneuver in this society,” he stressed, before reading a proclamation from the mayor.
“Learning to think critically is one of the most important skills which today’s children will need for the future,” said Dee Dameron, co-chair of P.I.E.C.E.S., Plainfield’s Early Childhood advisory council. “Children should be given every opportunity to have a foundation, and our job as adults is to provide guidance. Let’s celebrate our children. Let’s guide our children. And most importantly, let’s love our children.”
The speakers were followed by student performances from Bilingual Day Care Center, Precious Steps, and Stillman and Woodland Elementary Schools.
The Month of the Young Child is a tradition that started in 1971 as the Week of the Young Child by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). It became a month-long celebration in Plainfield when the Neighborhood House Association spearheaded the concept of the Month of the Young Child Parade, which included children from childcare providers across Plainfield. This was long before the school district provided early childcare starting in 1999.
By 2009, the parade reached its peak with over 2,000 participating children and adults, but was stopped due to logistical concerns. However, the rest of the celebration continues, as various activities will be held at the preschool centers and elementary school sites throughout Plainfield.
A calendar of events has been developed for community participation and several business owners have committed to display the artwork created by the children for this occasion.
Wednesday also kicked off the Month of the Young Child Donate-a-Book Campaign. The goal is to collect two thousand books to be distributed to every pre-school and kindergarden child to add to their home library. Community members invited to the kick off were asked to bring a book to donate.
The Month of the Young Child will close with a Family Fair on April 23 to be held from 3 – 7pm at Black United Fund Health and Human Services at 703 W 7th Street. All preschool parents and children are invited to enjoy an evening of activities featuring character greetings, face painting, storytelling, art projects, music, food, and more. Various community agencies will be on hand to share resources and information with families. See the flyer here, in both English and Spanish.