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Guest column: The importance of early childhood education

Suzan Gage, Special to the News-Herald

The older children get, the more we can see how significant their younger years were in their development. Experiences occurring during this period provide the foundation for them as individuals when they grow older. With a strong foundation, they can grow into successful adults.

This is why the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) emphasizes the importance of early education and the effects it can have on your children beyond their youngest years.

There are many tools available that contribute to a child’s future success, but two big factors that help ensure your child is on track for a bright education: consistently doing checkups on how they’re developing and understanding the far-reaching impact childcare teachers have on a child’s life.

These go hand in hand as parents and guardians search for resources that will help them navigate the complexities of raising a child and setting them up for success.

It’s vitally important for parents to understand just how ready their children are for kindergarten, both physically and developmentally. ELCNWF is partnered with Help Me Grow Northwest Florida, which offers free developmental screenings to children younger than 9 who live in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.

The screening begins with a simple questionnaire that will help families better understand their child’s growth and ensure that they are on the developmental track to success. Help Me Grow Northwest Florida knows how crucial early intervention is and encourages parents to use the screenings to celebrate their children’s milestones.

This service will also connect a family with a professional if early intervention is appropriate. The results of these screenings can also be shared with childcare teachers so they’re able to understand and accommodate each child’s unique needs.

Childcare teachers are the building blocks for a child’s educational success, and they set the foundation for our children’s lifelong learning experiences. Kickstart Success addresses the need for more childcare teachers in our local communities and early learning centers.

This is a tremendous opportunity for local residents to launch a career in early education, making a difference in the lives of the next generation. Becoming a childcare teacher at your own child’s learning center is a great way to make a meaningful impact in your community while spending precious quality time with your own child and being a mentor to their peers.

ELCNWF recognizes that it takes more than just one thing to ensure every child has a bright future. Developmental screenings and childcare teachers work to enhance local childcare centers and support improved early education. The result is nothing short of better outcomes for all our area’s children.

Suzan Gage is the executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida. For more information on Help Me Grow Screenings and Kickstart Success, visit