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Perspective: How are the children? A call to action.

Susan Stephens

Our community’s future relies on the success of our youth.

The health and wellbeing of a community’s children is a clear indicator of its current and future strength. A community that invests in its children — fostering healthy families and a strong support system around them — is a community that develops stable relationships, grows leaders, builds a robust economy, and becomes a safe and healthy place to live and work.

Even though we know that the first years are a critical time in human development, there is a gap in institutionalized support for this age group. By the time a child enters kindergarten, around age five, an important window of development is already closing.

So, how are the children in the Rockford region?

When we look at the worrisome reading and math scores of children in our Rockford community, we need to be asking ourselves, “How are our youngest children?” If we want to change the metrics of academic achievement in our region, we must prepare children to learn before they are even tasked with it.

Fortunately, we now have an excellent data tool to help us understand the state of our youngest children and how best to support them. The Early Development Instrument, or EDI, was introduced to Rockford in 2019. It produces valid and reliable citywide and neighborhood level data representing our youngest children’s health and development. It is conducted every three years in Rockford.

The 2022 EDI data is now available, and the public is invited to explore its relevance to early childhood learning and care by visiting AlignmentRockford.org. The community can also take part in a series of presentations from local, regional, and national early childhood experts on Oct. 27.

Wherever you sit in the community -- healthcare, manufacturing, finance, business -- the children of Rockford need you. And you need them; they are our future.

I’m Emily Klonicki and this is my perspective.

Emily Klonicki is the Executive Director of Alignment Rockford, a collective impact organization focused on education and the support of students in the Rockford area.