MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education will take the lead on a new movement designed to encourage parents of young children to practice healthy and instructive techniques that will help their children become better learners.
The department has experienced extraordinary success in the last decade building the state’s First Class Pre-K program into the best in the nation for quality.
This new movement, dubbed “Born Ready,” is a multimedia campaign that uses brain development research and focus group data to get specific messages and information to parents.
The goal, according to Gov. Kay Ivey and Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross, is to offer parents much-needed support for raising healthy, ready-to-learn kids.
According to the department, research shows 95% of brain development occurs from birth to 5 years old, making this time critical for a child’s ability to learn. However, many parents may not know that or feel empowered to help their children.
“What we learned from the research was that many parents felt like they couldn’t do enough on their own, and then also might feel too ashamed to ask,” Ross said. “We want to reach those parents with a message of, ‘Yes, you can do this! You were born to raise children, and we can help.'”
Billboards, television and radio spots, and a variety of digital advertising, will direct parents to bornready.org, a new website full of helpful information color-coordinated to a child’s age.
“We encourage every Alabama parent to visit the site, use its incredible resources, and take the Born Ready Parent Pledge to show their commitment to helping their children learn and grow as they prepare for school,” Ivey said. “Your child is born ready to learn, and you’re born ready to teach.
“Every Alabama child — no matter their geographic location or socioeconomic status — will benefit from this movement, starting in the home and extending to all early childhood education settings.”
The initiative is made possible through a $10.6 million Preschool Development B-5 Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Other grants have been geared toward increasing classroom capacity for the First Class Pre-K program, which, even after repeated state budget increases, still has waiting lists in many parts of the state.
However, part of this B-5, or birth-through-five, grant is specifically aimed to “maximize parental knowledge and choice” through an outreach program, Ross said.
Grants to encourage better parenting are nothing new. Similar efforts aimed at safety, nutrition and other areas are commonly undertaken by state agencies with federal dollars.
However, Ross said the Department of Early Childhood Education’s success with First Class Pre-K made it uniquely qualified to oversee and implement this competitive grant, while working with many other state agencies and advocacy groups.
The Alabama Medicaid Agency, the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Human Resources, VOICES for Alabama’s Children, the Alabama Head Start Association, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Education were just some of the partners involved in seeking the grant, Ross said.
“We already had such success with the first Pre School Development Grant, and we were already providing high-quality learning in the Pre-K realm. But with this grant, we included more than 100 other agencies and partner organizations that had input. So, we led it, but it was actually a tremendous collaboration,” Ross said.
“'Born Ready’s' goals are to inspire and empower every parent, and to ensure every child reaches their greatest potential,” she said.
The department has contracted with Telegraph Creative, led by YellowHammer News founder and former CEO Cliff Sims, to design and implement the campaign. In June, Ross said Telegraph Creative was the only company that met the criteria for the $999,000 contract, and that the campaign would be “something the state can be proud of.”
The result is a colorful, attractive, eye-catching campaign full of messages intended to reach a diverse range of parents.
“Our website, BornReady.org, is a game-changing resource for Alabama families. It will provide the resources needed to build successful and contributing citizens for the future,” Ross said.