Chautauqua County is poised to celebrate Month of the Young Child.
The month of April will feature various open houses at area family programs, school-aged programs, licensed day care facilities and preschools. Events and programs will also be held at elementary schools, universities and libraries.
According to Elizabeth Starks, executive director of the Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center and co-president of the Chautauqua County Association for the Education of Young Children, the purpose of the "Month of the Young Child" is bring awareness to the field of early childhood and its significance because for children, most learning occurs during the first 5-8 years of life.
Vee Barringer, a teacher at Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, is pictured with children ages 6 weeks to 18 months.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
Dena Waters, a Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center teacher, and Elizabeth Starks, executive director of the Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center, are pictured playing with children ages 18 months to 3 years.
Christopher and Katie Melquist are pictured reading Dr. Seuss books at Prendergast Library. A young boy is pictured below building a cave with blocks in the preschool of the Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center.
"Often it's said early years are learning years - make them count," Starks said. "There's so much research in brain development that shows how we are helping to form the foundation of the rest of children's lives - it's so important. It's also important for families to know that the choice that they make for their children, whether it's an in-home-based program, a center or family member, that it's the highest quality possible because that quality speaks to the foundation of the rest of the child's life."
One of the reasons the National Association for the Education of Young Children's Week of the Young Child is celebrated for a month in Chautauqua County is that the size of the county lends itself to extending the program, Starks said.
"Big cities can do everything in one week, whereas because we're smaller we like to spread it out to a whole month so that we can make sure families in every community have enough opportunity to get involved," Starks said.
The Chautauqua County Association for the Education of Young Children is a local affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
"The purpose is to support professionals in the early childhood field such as teachers of young children," Starks said. "The field of early childhood is birth through age 8. So this would be all of the professionals who work with young children in providing them with the very best care and education that we can."
One of the ways in which the organizations support professionals is providing professional development opportunities, networking events and by spreading the word of the importance of early childhood learning. For more information, visit www.ccaeyc.org.
There are a number of ways in which area residents and children can participate in the celebration of Month of the Young Child.
Various open houses will be held at area family programs, school-aged programs, licensed day care facilities and preschools throughout Chautauqua County to recognize the work of those involved in such programs. Another purpose of the open houses is to give area residents the opportunity to learn about the services offered in order to determine the best fit for their children.
"The open houses are something new that we're trying," Starks said. "We decided to open the opportunity to all centers and in home providers for the month. It allows them to show people what their program entails and also to advertise it. We invite participation from any centers or in-home based providers who would like to get involved."
Programs that would like to be featured with an open house may contact the Chautauqua Child Care Council at 661-9430, ext. 2290 or 800-424-4532. For more information, visit www.chautauquaopportunities.com, click on "services" then "Chautauqua Child Care Council."
The Chautauqua Child Care Council will host events in April as well, such as: an eco-healthy child care session on Tuesday, April 22, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Connections South, 2887 Fluvanna-Townline Road in Jamestown and a child abuse and maltreatment protective factors video conference on Thursday, April 24, from 6:45-9:15 p.m. at the campus and community children's center, 280 Central Ave. in Fredonia.
Dr. Tamar Jacobson, the chair of the Department of Teacher Education and the director of the Early Childhood Program at Rider University in New Jersey, will return to SUNY Fredonia for a presentation entitled: "Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way for Anti-Bias in Early Childhood." The event will be held in room G26 of McEwen Hall on the SUNY Fredonia Campus at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24.
Also in recognition of "Month of the Young Child," Mayor Sam Teresi will read "Green Eggs and Ham" at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 8 at Prendergast Library. The event is an early learning storytime for children 3-5 years old. Caregivers and siblings are also welcome. The event is sponsored by the Chautauqua County Association for the Education of Young Children. Stories about adventures and journeys, snacks, stickers and bookmarks will be included.
Prendergast Library is located at 509 Cherry St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 484-7135.
Chautauqua County's Month of the Young Child will culminate with a provider appreciation day and dinner to honor and highlight the work providers do. The event, which is scheduled for early May, is held at Chautauqua Suites and is invite-only.