Image credit: Boston Basics
Boston Basics, the early childhood development initiative co-founded by Wendell Knox and funded by the Black Philanthropy Fund, has a grand science-backed plan for shrinking the achievement gap that focuses on one key mantra: keep things simple.
Over the past year, Partners has been an enthusiastic supporter of this group, which has achieved early success by taking research from some of the world’s most accomplished minds, and transforming it into a series of short, accessible videos based on five evidence-based parenting principles. Experts believe these principles are integral to a child’s learning and development, from birth to age three:
- Maximize Love, Manage Stress
- Talk, Sing, Point
- Count, Group, Compare
- Explore Through Movement and Play
- Read and Discuss Stories
Knox explained that each of these five principals maps to a short online video that parents can watch in English or Spanish to learn tips, techniques, and activities that they can perform with their children to bolster brain development, and better equip them for entering the Boston Public School system. Each video, which is kept short at a few minutes per video, was created with the help of exhaustive research conducted at the Harvard University by Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University.
The health care industry understands that acting on this, and investing in education and parenting will translate directly into improved health statistics.
In his research, Ferguson found that, “the best available evidence indicates that children of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds come into the world equally equipped to excel. However, by age three, between-group skill differences are clearly in evidence. Later, gaps in school readiness are firmly established by the first day of kindergarten.”
At the moment, Knox believes this early period of childhood education is commanding less investment from public policy institutions than it should. “Parents don’t know the importance of this critical period, or maybe don’t think they’re capable, but what Ferguson’s work shows is that they can engage with their child no matter what their educational background is, and practicing these five principles will make a difference,” he said.
Partners HealthCare and other health care organizations are doing their part to embrace Boston Basics and ensure it succeeds, including seed funding and functioning as a delivery partner to get materials into affiliated health care centers.
“The health care industry understands that acting on this, and investing in education and parenting will translate directly into improved health statistics,” Knox said. “When people improve their knowledge, it means they have improved access to the health care system.”
The organization has also partnered with the city of Boston, the Boston Public School system, and WGBH to spread awareness.
“The question is, can you get a whole city to become aware of these best practices, and also engage with them? And then can we measure if this is making not just an immediate difference, but also at the time a child gets to kindergarten? We’re creating these partnerships to make sure that this link is established,” Knox said.
To date, partnerships throughout Boston have swelled to more than 60 organizations across Boston. “We’re collaborating with housing groups to ensure people in those settings are exposed through resident programming services. We’ve got strategy to deliver this city-wide, make it highly decentralized, and affordable.”