Parenting: Can you imagine this scene?

Woman: Over there? Over there’s the water. Whshhh! Whshhh! And look at all this stuff I’m standing on. It’s called sand, and it’s everywhere!

Where is this woman and who is with her?

Woman: It’s made up of little tiny pieces of rocks. Teeny little pieces of rocks.

This woman may sound silly to you and me.

Woman: How does it feel when you touch the sand? Is it warm?

But to her 2-year-old son, exploring the world around him, she makes perfect sense. Learning starts long before school does. And children are naturally curious. They want to learn. So follow their lead. Take simple everyday moments, like sorting laundry or playing on the beach, and turn them into learning moments.

Woman: Is it soft? Slippery?

Two-year-old son: yes

Woman: Very good! This is sand. Oh, no, no. It’s not food, it’s sand. We don’t eat sand.

We know what happens in a child’s early years matters for success in life and for school readiness. That’s why United Way and its partners are launching an unprecedented national public engagement campaign, called Born Learning. The partners include United Way, the Ad Council and Civitas to create an innovative public engagement campaign called Born Learning.

The Born Learning campaign is a three to 10-year public awareness and engagement campaign to help parents and other caregivers provide quality early learning opportunities for young children. Yet many parents and caregivers do not know exactly what actions to take to prepare young children for school, or feel like they don’t have time to do what is needed. Through advertising, parent education and community impact, the Born Learning campaign will help parents, caregivers, and communities take action to provide quality early learning opportunities for children.

Key messages of the Born Learning campaign:

Children are born learning. What if every child had five years of education before kindergarten? The reality is that children are learning constantly, right from birth. What they learning during those first five years depends on the experiences they have each and every day. This is our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.

Parents and caregivers need help providing early learning opportunities. Families and others who care for young children understand that the early years are important. Yet many do not know exactly what to do to encourage early learning, or feel they do not have time to do what it takes to prepare their child for school. Parents and caregivers need specific, “doable” action steps that are fun and easy to do during daily life to support early learning for young children.

The Born Learning campaign is comprehensive. The Born Learning campaign is built on three cornerstones: awareness, education, and action. It includes nationwide advertising, a wide array of research-based parent education materials and community mobilization tools to help galvanize communities around early learning.

I hope the Born Learning campaign will help meet parents’ need in this community to get kids off to the right start. Parents and caregivers who would like this information can check out the campaign web site at It provides a lot of useful information based on latest research, along with dozens of downloadable tips, facts sheets, and other user-friendly materials. You can call Cathy Norton at United Way of Island County at 675-1778 or Bess Windecker-Nelson with Island County Family Support Alliance at 360.320.0595 for more information.

Cathy Norton is the executive director of United Way Island County and is a member of the Family Support Alliance. She lives with her family in Oak Harbor.

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