BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Members of the Early Years Matter Coalition are seeking to build up champions with the communities they serve in hopes that more people will keep in mind the importance of early childhood development.
Louise Rellis, a member of the coalition, said it’s important to build up the presence of the group within communities so that they can build relationships to better address the needs of their children.
“We want to see people who are passionate about children’s development and who want to raise awareness on the importance of the early years in a child’s life,” Rellis said.
“The reason we want more champions is because it helps us build relationships in the community and to provide a vision in our community to build on areas of development that need it within a particular community.”
The coalition was formed a number of years ago to address several areas of childhood development, and to serve as an information and resource group to help build up the children of the community.
In 2014, the Offord Centre for Child Studies, a Canada-wide research organization, completed what is known as the Early Development Instrument (EDI), that outlines several important areas of early childhood development.
These five areas of development outlined in the EDI are: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development and communication skills and general knowledge.
Right now, the Early Years Matter coalition is seeking out parents and educators within the communities of Alix, Bentley, Blackfalds, Clive, Eckville and Lacombe to act as champions of the issues and to help build relevant strategies.
“We are looking for people to help us plan events, to build relationships and to help us build up local partners in the community. There’s no huge commitment, or huge requirements. We meet once a month, and if people simply could attend a meeting every month or try to attend a meeting, that is absolutely awesome,” Rellis said.
“We want people to be a voice for the children in their community. This helps us to direct our efforts towards what people see lacking in their communities.”
Rellis said it’s vital to have champions within each of their regional communities so that they can build a presence in those communities to in turn build up their children to their highest capacities.
“If we have local champions, that builds up our voice in that community and can help point us to beneficial relationships and groups to build up the awareness of areas that need support. It helps us not to overlap resources or miss out on a resource that needs to be in a community,” she added.
In October of this year, Rellis presented to Lacombe City council on the matter of the most recent findings of the EDI research.
Kindergarten teachers across Canada are given a number of strategies to determine childhood development in their classrooms, and these findings are analyzed to help determine patterns in communities, plus strengths and challenges.
Rellis said during this presentation that the information collected in Lacombe indicates that young children in the community are struggling the most in the area of communication skills and general knowledge.
Rellis explained the findings showed that up to 38.3% of students evaluated experienced difficulty or great difficulty in this developmental area.
She said the findings also indicated difficulties in the areas of language and cognitive development, with 28.9% of students struggling; and emotional maturity, with 28.5% of students struggling.
”The information is a little alarming once it’s all broken down. When you see that amount of students who are struggling in a particular area – in this, communication and general knowledge – it’s tough to take in,” Rellis said.
She said she hopes members of the community – parents, council members, businesses and more – reach out to the Early Years Matter Coalition and take on the role of an early years development champion within their community.
The group can be found on facebook as the Early Years Matter Coalition.