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3/2/2018 - Jackson, Miss.

By Glenn F. Boyce
Commissioner of Higher Education

When a child is born and new parents are in the midst of bottles, diapers, first words and first steps, college seems like it is light years away. As a father of three daughters, I can attest to the fact that the time comes much faster than you imagine it will. Waiting until high school or even middle school to ensure a child has a solid foundation on which to build a successful college career is simply not enough.

Many studies have found that even before a child crosses the threshold on the first day of kindergarten, the child is learning, growing and making connections as the brain develops. The experiences in the early years of a child's life play a crucial role in all future learning and development. In fact, in its 2017 report, Taking on the Challenge: Building a Strong Foundation for Early Learning, the U.S. Department of Education noted that "the research is clear that children who enter kindergarten ready to succeed are more likely to read by third grade and thrive in high school and beyond."

When we think of universities, we usually picture them serving those age 18 and older, but Mississippi Public Universities have several programs and centers that serve young children and their parents. Mississippi Valley State University's Child Development Center provides quality child care and a developmentally-appropriate program including language development, mathematics, social/emotional development, physical development, scientific investigation, and computer skills.

The Center uses the High Reach Learning program, which is based on the philosophy that children learn best through hands-on activities that address the needs of the whole child and includes a blend of child-initiated and teacher-facilitated activities during the day. The benefits of the Center extend beyond the pre-school children it serves. The Center enables parents to seek employment and pursue educational advancement. It also provides a laboratory in which MVSU Early Childhood Education students may observe, participate and study in university-supervised activities.

There is a relationship between speech and language skills as a young child and reading proficiency later in life. Reading is the foundation on which all other learning is built, so it is important to address speech and language issues early. The DuBard School for Language Disorders at The University of Southern Mississippi serves children with severe language-speech disorders, including developmental aphasia and childhood apraxia of speech, deafness and hearing impairments, and those with the written language disorder of dyslexia.

Established in 1962, the DuBard School is a clinical division of the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at Southern Miss. Parents and families of the children also receive guidance and counseling. The School is a practicum site for university students majoring in speech-language pathology, audiology, or deaf education and serves as an observation and practicum site for those in nursing, human performance and recreation, science education, music and social work. The DuBard School also provides professional development on The DuBard Association Method® in settings both on campus and across the country.

The Child Development Laboratory Center (CDLC) at Alcorn State University enables university students to observe and study the developmental characteristics of children from six weeks of age to school-age entry by providing full-year, full-day child care services. The CDLC also provides a parenting education program to support the parent's role as teacher.

In addition to providing a high-quality early childhood environment for the young students, the CDLC provides hands-on experiences that allow the university students to explore early childhood education as a career. Established in 1950 and licensed by the Mississippi State Department of Health, the CDLC serves as a research site for other university academic units and provides professional development opportunities for community-based early childhood programs.

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