Policy brief from the James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research | Idaho at a Glance. May 2015, Vol. 6, No. 1 | The period from birth to 5 years old is a critical time for a child’s brain development. In these early years, children develop cognitive, social, emotional, and linguistic skills essential to achieving success once they begin school. This report provides background for public policy dialogue on this critical birth-to-5 period in the lives of Idaho’s young children. Findings include the following:
There are roughly 146,000 children under age 6 in Idaho. More than half—about 83,000— live in households in which all parents work outside the home.
Idaho has no comprehensive system to track all places where children are being cared for when their parents are working. We have data on the number of child care slots licensed by the state and cities (about 24,000 and 8,000, respectively). However, we do not know how many of these slots are in facilities that provide opportunities for children to develop skills essential to achieving success when they begin school.
Family engagement is a key element of many early learning programs, including Head Start and Early Head Start. Other examples are “Read to Me,” offered through public libraries, and the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
Though we lack good information on the extent of learning opportunities for Idaho’s youngest children, we do know that only 54% of Idaho’s kindergartners enter school ready to learn to read. This suggests Idaho’s young children would benefit from more learning opportunities before they get to elementary school, both in the home and elsewhere.