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Early-Learning Advocates Gather at Capitol, Play with Blocks

BLOCK Fest, an interactive learning program for young children, will be on display at an event tomorrow at the Idaho State Capitol. (IAEYC)
BLOCK Fest, an interactive learning program for young children, will be on display at an event tomorrow at the Idaho State Capitol. (IAEYC)
February 8, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children is gathering early-learning advocates at the Capitol today to push for investments in quality education programs.

The issue of funding early childhood education has long been discussed by the Legislature, but Idaho ranks last for the number of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and is one of only five states without state-funded preschool.

Jesus Blanco, policy development and outreach associate with Idaho Voices for Young Children, says research shows that preschool works - and without it, Idaho's children are falling behind.

"We know that kids who take advantage of pre-K education are just better prepared," he said. "They have a better foundation to succeed in school, they have better social skills, and I think that it's critical."

Nearly half of children won't be ready to read when it's time to enter kindergarten, Blanco says. And today's event at the Statehouse will also focus on the economic benefits of investing in high-quality learning for children from birth to age five. According to research by economist James Heckman, there's a 13-percent return for every dollar spent.

One part of the event is a demonstration of a program that could help facilitate early learning for children who don't have access to education programs.

Director Katie Bauer will share BLOCK Fest, an interactive exhibit that allows children to learn with blocks. Bauer says playing with blocks can be the foundation for early science and math skills.

"The best thing about block play is kids don't know they're learning," she said. "They're just playing and creating, but they are learning and grasping new concepts every time they play with blocks."

The program, facilitated by the Twiga Foundation since 2009, was developed at the University of Idaho in 2005. It has four permanent sites across the state, and also has stretched to 14 other states.

Bauer adds there's a simple beauty to the program, which shows that learning can take place at home, often with common household items.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID