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The educational environment is important from the earliest moments in life, starting with the degree to which parents talk to their babies, label objects, and read to their young children. Disparities in vocabulary begin to appear by 18 months, and have lifelong implications for long-term health and well-being.
The early childhood period is also critical for the early development of executive functioning skills, such as emotion regulation, critical analysis skills, and impulse control. These executive functioning skills develop within the context of relationships with supportive adults, launching a young child’s trajectory to be able to manage stress, make health decisions, and engage in positive behaviors which lead to life-long success.
This early foundation is further promoted or hindered once children enter school, with the next critical milestone being in 3rd and 4th grade. Seventy-four percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade falter in the later grades, and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. The inability to read well by 3rd or 4th grade is linked to poverty, unemployment, as well as barriers to healthcare access, provider communications, and health literacy. Furthermore, adverse childhood experiences (ACES) negatively affect brain development and later limits a youth’s ability to engage in the educational environment and be successful in school. In the long-term, lower educational attainment has a negative impact on an individual’s ability to navigate the health system, to engage in health behaviors, and therefore on overall life expectancy.
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