Early Learning: Right from the Start

Right from the Start Campaign

This campaign is aimed at strengthening the state’s early learning system by enacting stronger public policies for young children and increasing investments in programs and services that pay strong dividends over the course of a child’s life.

Campaign Goal:  All young children in New Jersey have a strong early care and education foundation that supports their 3rd grade reading proficiency and provides the foundation so children are:

  • Starting off Strong with their earliest and most critical needs met,
  • Thriving by Five with access to high-quality child care and preschool education, and
  • Great at Eight, because they received a strong foundation for learning.

The campaign will focus on the following areas:

  • Providing children with positive early experiences in the infant and toddler years.
  • Ensuring families have access to child care.
  • Improving the quality of child care in all settings.
  •  Expanding access to high-quality, state-funded preschool.
  • Aligning preschool through 3rd grade education.
  • Improving coordination of early care and education services to create a seamless system of early learning for children from infancy to age eight.

Starting Off Strong

A baby’s brain is a work in progress, particularly during the first three years of life. Research demonstrates that children’s earliest outside experiences shape their overall development. Ensuring that young children experience safe and nurturing environments will provide them with a strong foundation for a healthy start in life. This means supporting parents effectively, providing high-quality child care and ensuring adequate health care and nutrition.

Young children in the child protection system demand a special focus. Twenty-eight percent of New Jersey’s maltreated children are under age 3. Forty-eight percent of children living with their grandparents are under age 6. Almost 50 percent of children in foster care are age five or under. Policies and practices must be in place to ensure that their unique developmental needs are addressed.

Thriving by Five

As young children enter the preschool years, their access to high-quality early education is critically important. Nearly 50,000 low-income 3- and 4- year olds in New Jersey attend high-quality preschool, but thousands more disadvantaged children are denied access because state-funded preschool is not offered in their communities. And too many families simply cannot afford the price tag for quality pre-k.

Families with children from infancy to age 8 rely heavily on child care so they can work. Like preschool, high-quality child care is costly and often beyond the reach of struggling families.  Plus, affordable child care does not always equal quality. Poorer quality care has a detrimental impact on the growth and development of young children. We, as a state, need to ensure that all children have access to high-quality child care and preschool.

Great at Eight

Good early learning programs, beginning in preschool and continuing from kindergarten through 3rd grade, play a pivotal role in each child’s success in being proficient readers by 3rd grade. A child’s preschool experience should be closely coordinated with the early elementary years, with a strong emphasis on early literacy. To accomplish this, teachers, school administrators and parents must work together across grade levels to ensure that all children’s learning experiences build on past years and connect with those to come. This will not only improve children’s reading proficiency, but will provide them with the skills needed to graduate from high school, college or career ready.