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Alaska Promotes Early Learning with "Babies on Track"
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ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates
Parents of children under age two in Alaska obtained vital information about how they can support their children’s healthy development and early learning at "Babies on Track" premiere events that took place across the state in early 2012. "Babies on Track" is a 14-minute DVD that depicts Alaskan families interacting with babies in ways that help them learn language, sounds, and social skills.
The fundamental principle behind “Babies on Track” is that the baby brain grows more in its earliest years – before 3 years old – than at any other time in human life. It’s also the time when language is taking shape in babies’ brains. Talking, conversation, singing, and other forms of interaction are critical in this period.
The video introduces a simple model to guide interactions with young children: o T: Talk o R: Respond o A: Ask questions o C: Connect o K: Keep at it o S: Sing and tell stories
The primary message of the DVD is that the more parents talk with their babies and children – the more conversation and interaction that occur – the easier it is for babies to pick up language later. They have larger vocabularies, and they’re ready for kindergarten by age 5. The interactions that occur in the first years of life are critical for school readiness and later success.
In the 2 1/2 years since creating “Babies on Track,” Best Beginnings has distributed nearly 8,000 sets. More than 4,000 were given out during 167 “Babies on Track” premieres in 80 Alaska communities in spring, 2012. The rest have gone out to parents and families, librarians and teachers, and other partners in learning around the state.
The following list includes some examples of how the DVD has been distributed and used throughout the state:
In Kotzebue, the Northwest Arctic Infant Learning Program does development screenings of young children. After the screening, the parent receives “Babies on Track” as part of a resource-filled “Baby Backpack.”
Visiting nurses at Nutaqsiivik Nurse Family Partnership, a home visiting program at Southcentral Foundation, use “Babies on Track” as a teaching tool, a way to talk to parents about the importance of talking, singing, reading and playing with their children. Nutaqsiivik has distributed more than 200 DVDs to families in Anchorage and Mat-Su.
The partner agencies of Juneau Partnership for Families and Children distribute “Babies on Track” to parents of infants or toddlers, as part of their conversations about literacy and language development. In 2014 the partnership collectively gave “Babies on Track” to 384 families, representing more than 25% of Juneau children under age 3.
The "Babies on Track" DVD was produced by Best Beginnings, a public-private partnership focused on early childhood. The DVD was supported by contributions from the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Additional funding from the Alaska Children’s Trust, The CIRI Foundation, and ConocoPhillips Alaska supported production of board books that were distributed with the DVD.