The Critical Infrastructure of Early Learning
Birth to Books

Blog post Beth Day, SREB
Craig Ramey of Virginia Tech shared research about early childhood brain development and the return on investing in high-quality programs

What happens in a child’s first three years of life has deep and long-lasting implications for success in school and life. Studies show that how many words children are exposed to by age 3, their mothers’ education level, and the stress of poverty are huge factors in whether or not they are ready for kindergarten at age 5. 

SREBs Early Childhood Commission heard more evidence of the return on investing in early learning at its March 2015 meeting in Louisville. That return is at least 4:1 but only for high quality, intensive programs, said Craig T. Ramey, a scholar of human development at Virginia Tech’s Carilion Research Institute. 

Science now shows rapid brain development, language foundation and attachment from age 1 to 3, he said. These are strongly influenced by adult relationships and build a critical infrastructure for later learning. 

Learning gaps at age 3 and 5 are very difficult to close, but high quality early childhood education programs can overcome them and bring large and lasting benefits to children, families and their communities, Ramey said.