Birth to Age Eight

There is growing recognition that for children to achieve their full potential they must have a strong start throughout their early years – birth through age eight.

The first eight years of life either set children on a path to success as curious and engaged learners with strong foundational skills – or allow achievement gaps to take root, forcing schools to play an impossible game of catch up that leaves far too many children behind. To maximize children’s potential during these years and to close later achievement gaps, the early learning system and the early years of elementary school must be high quality and be aligned with one another.

This has been discussed philosophically for years. However, the fragmentation and poor quality both within the early childhood system and across the early childhood/early elementary continuum have made such alignment extremely difficult. This has left many children underserved and underprepared for school success.

A Sense of Urgency

The urgency to move beyond a birth to five approach to a birth to eight approach has increased in recent years in the wake of studies focusing on the “fade-out” of children who had started school at a higher level of readiness through participation in high quality early learning programs. By the time they took third grade standardized tests, children were showing limited or no advanced progress as compared to their peers who did not participate in a high quality early learning program. Experts began to realize that, to secure the long-term benefits of high quality early learning, they must also make sure children were receiving equal benefit from high quality elementary schools and that the two systems must be better aligned.

Recent interest among politicians in retaining children who do not pass third grade reading tests has further emphasized the urgency of aligning the two systems. There is also a need to promote an approach that begins at birth and continues through school to prepare children to be reading at grade level. To that end, Ohio BUILD recently supported the state’s Third Grade Reading Taskforce to develop recommendations for an approach to third grade literacy that included strategies along the continuum of birth through age eight.

BUILD’s key partners in this birth to eight approach include the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the Alliance for Early Success formerly known as the Birth to Five Policy Alliance.