Greenwich celebrates The Week of the Young Child

Ken Borsuk With the help of, in center, 3-year-old Caleigh Reynolds, 4-year-old Libby Byxbee and 4-year-old Maeve Reynolds, a proclamation was read by First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, to celebrate the Week of the Young Child with Jenny Byxbee and Dolores Kenny.

With the help of, in center, 3-year-old Caleigh Reynolds, 4-year-old Libby Byxbee and 4-year-old Maeve Reynolds, a proclamation was read by First Selectman Peter Tesei, at left, to celebrate the Week of the Young Child with Jenny Byxbee and Dolores Kenny. —Ken Borsuk

The importance of early education in Greenwich has been long discussed. But it was hammered home as part of the Week of the Young Child.

At a small ceremony at Town Hall, First Selectman Peter Tesei presented a proclamation from his office thanking the School Readiness Council of Greenwich and other local organizations, including the United Way of Greenwich, for their work in town dealing with young children and promoting early education. The Week of the Young Child goes through Saturday, April 12, and Mr. Tesei said these efforts to improve early learning opportunities can provide a “fountain of learning” for children in town.

“Teachers and others who make a difference in the lives of young children in Greenwich, in both public and independent schools, deserve thanks and recognition,” Mr. Tesei said in the proclamation. “Public policies that support early learning for all young children are crucial to young children’s futures.”

The proclamation formally declared April 6 through 12 to be the Week of the Young Child in Greenwich, and it was gratefully accepted by Jenny Byxbee, the town’s youth services coordinator as well as chair this year of the School Readiness Council, a Greenwich group working on early childhood education issues. Ms. Byxbee was joined by several others in accepting the honor, but perhaps none more important than her own 4-year-old daughter, Libby.

“This is something that’s so important,” Ms. Byxbee said. “I think we underestimate the value of a really quality preschool experience. There’s such a big difference between those who are ready for kindergarten and those who aren’t based on their preschool experiences. And I term preschool experiences as from the moment you arrive at the hospital to the moment you walk in the doors to kindergarten. We have to figure out how to level the playing field to help reduce the achievement gap, and I think that happens way before little ones walk into kindergarten. That’s why this week is so important.”

It wasn’t just young Libby and her friends Maeve and Caleigh Reynolds who joined the group at Town Hall. Superintendent of Schools William McKersie was on hand, as was Dolores Kenny, the district’s early childhood program coordinator. They said they have seen the results of early education and Ms. Kenny said she was glad this week was set aside as a celebration of those efforts.

“There’s a lot out there and the community does a lot to support the early childhood education of preschoolers in Greenwich,” Dr. Kenny said. “We have a tight group of directors and a great staff, and we want to celebrate everyone who’s working so hard to provide early childhood education. For a while this work wasn’t being celebrated, so the fact that we took some time out is significant. These years are so important. Children are coming in as an empty slate and this is when they learn. The home environment plays a real big piece in that, and working with parents to have common goals — whether they’re learning goals or behavioral goals — is vital. This is when the groundwork is built for social and emotional learning.”

Dr. McKersie spoke from experience, not just as a man in charge of all Greenwich’s public schools but as a father with a young daughter who recently entered the Greenwich Public Schools system.

“This is critically important,” Dr. McKersie said. “We know for academic development that things done correctly at the early age in the academic setting can help lay the foundation for kids to help get the basics early. But we also know now from research out over the last few weeks from a 30-year study about health and social well-being that those who have had early childhood programs are that much stronger later. Our kids need the right foundation early.”

It was a week full of events throughout town dedicated to early education, as people like Dr. McKersie, Chief of Police James Heavey, United Way of Greenwich President Stuart Adelberg and state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st) served as guest readers in Greenwich preschool classrooms to promote literacy. There’s also been a Greenwich preschool book drive and the Junior United Way had been conducting activities at many of its after-school programs for kindergartners and first graders to spread the word about the Week of the Young Child and all it represents. The Greenwich YMCA, which will be doing a “healthy kids day” at the end of the month, and Community Centers Inc. have also been active partners in these efforts with their programs.

“Every child counts,” Ms. Byxbee said. “In this town we have a high rate of those who attend a preschool for at least some period of time before kindergarten, but every child matters, so if there’s a small percentage who aren’t getting a quality experience, they count, too, and it’s important to recognize that we need to do something about that in Greenwich. That’s what we’re doing at the School Readiness Council.”

While this is considered an important week, it is by no means the only week when such efforts take place. This is a year-round effort, and Ms. Byxbee said anyone who wants to help or simply get more information may call her at 203-869-2221.

“We welcome all members to the School Readiness Council,” Ms. Byxbee said. “We welcome parents and organizations and those who are just passionate about young people and want to reduce the achievement gap and provide high-quality preschool education to all kids in town.”


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