ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Robert Ehrlich Tuesday kicked off a new $500,000 statewide campaign promoting early education and child preparation for kindergarten.
The yearlong effort, “Countdown to Kindergarten: Learning Begins at Birth,” will emphasize parents dedicating more time to learning with their children before they set foot in a school building.
Dubbing this year “The Year of the Child,” Ehrlich promoted the initiative that he said will help more children succeed in school.
The campaign will include statewide radio advertising emphasizing that learning begins at birth. It also will provide free educational materials, hold community-based promotions statewide and encourage parents to include learning activities in daily routines.
“We want every parent in the state to read 20 minutes a night with their child,” Ehrlich said.
He released a Department of Education study that showed that nearly half of Maryland’s children arrive at kindergarten without the skills needed to fully learn at that grade level.
Also, research from the National Research Council showed that that 90 percent of brain growth occurs between ages 0 and 5, yet 90 percent of public spending on education occurs after age 5.
During the brief ceremony, Ehrlich’s older son, Drew, 5, read a couple pages of a book to demonstrate his progress after reading with his parents every night.
Ehrlich also said that one of the best parts of the initiative was that many people were working together to support the campaign.
Representatives from the Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland Head Start Association, Friends of the Family, the Baltimore Ravens and Discovery Communications were some of the organizations there to show their support of the initiative.
Dr. Rolf Grafwallner, coordinator of Early Learning Programs of the Maryland State Department of Education, said that the program begins in such an early stage of the child’s life that it promotes eager learning.
“We need parents that really work with kids and support their education,” Grafwallner said.
Atwood Collins III, chairman of the Countdown to Kindergarten committee, spoke about how the initiative saves money on remedial education.
“One dollar invested in early education is equivalent to $7 spent on remedial education,” said Collins.
Ehrlich also promoted making sure every child knows how to read by kindergarten and how it could affect other grades in school.
“Without the essentials, first grade becomes intolerable,” he said.