By Laura D’Angelo
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio joined forces Tuesday morning in East Harlem to launch a program that aims to improve the language skills and life quality of children under the age of five.
The program, called “Pequeños y Valiosos” (“Small and Valuable”), grew from the collaboration of the campaign Too Small To Fail and the broadcasting company Univision.
Too Small To Fail, created by San Francisco-based non-profit organization Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, seeks to close the “word gap” in early childhood development and promotes awareness to parents about interacting with their babies from birth in order to stimulate language development and increase vocabulary.
Univision Communications is the largest American and Spanish speaking media company.
This new program will aim to work with parents, families, and caregivers particularly those of Hispanic heritage. About 25 percent of all children in the United States are Hispanic, yet they are less likely to have access to preschool and formal childcare. Young and Valuable wants to bring this information to these families, so that their children have the best chance to succeed.
“Investment in early years is the best investment in the future,” said Clinton.
Clinton explained how the building of brain cells begins at birth and increases by singing and talking to children. She recounted her daughter Chelsea’s early years, when her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, used to sing “Moon River” to Chelsea.
In an offbeat note she portrayed young Chelsea as a music critic: “‘No sing, Mommie,’ she would say.”
Clinton believes that children “should have a fair chance to live up to their God-given potential,” and that means to close the word gap – meaning that statistically, upper and middle-class children enter kindergarden having heard 15 million more words than children from working-class families. This word gap ends up affecting these children later in life, and prevents them from reaching their full potential.
De Blasio said that the bottom line is: “If you care about the youngest New Yorkers, this is the discussion we have to have and steps we have to take.”
He stressed that 85% of brain development comes before age five, yet education often doesn’t begin until shortly before that age. Especially in regards to those learning English as their second language, de Blasio stressed that the language should be taught at a young age, when brains are “like sponges.”
Randy Falco, the CEO of Univision also present at the launch event, said that it is important to invest in the Hispanic community, in all different issues such as education and immigration. He also said that it is “nice to say to families that their elected officials really care about them.”