Nancy Vaughan column: Born Learning trails are beckoning

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Jun 24, 2018 
     
United Way staff and volunteers have been working on sprucing up our county’s Born Learning trails this summer.
 
Thanks to Anderson Rotary, NTN Driveshaft and Tom Wood Honda, the trails at Pulaski and Jackson parks in Anderson and Brown Pool Park in Pendleton have bright new coats of primary colored paint to invite families to play hopscotch and identify numbers, colors, and letters and to do other activities to create overall quality time.
 
We hope to find volunteers to do the same at the county’s three other Born Learning trail sites at Shadyside Park in Anderson and at parks in Frankton and Elwood. The groups have also taken time to do some additional sprucing up around the parks and playgrounds. These public spaces are essential to our overall quality of life and, as we have discovered over years of hosting conversations with residents about what is most important to them, parks are highly valued.
 
Warm, sunny summer days are great for those who have leisure time, but these few weeks off the school calendar can also create challenges for working parents. The Anderson Trustee Youth Center program is filling the gap for some school-aged children with a structured six-week summer program that includes education, enrichment and recreational opportunities. United Way has provided some funding for this program.
 
School calendars have also shortened the summer break, so it’s not too early to think about back-to-school activities. A new opportunity for four-year-olds is still open to qualifying families this year, but they must act quickly. Information and a link to the application is at www.OnMyWayPreK.org.
 
Numerous organizations provide back-to-school assistance with supplies. More information for specific programs is available by calling 211. This is the 24-hour information and referral resource to find any type of assistance.
 
United Way’s Community Impact Committee discussed the early childhood landscape last week, noting that financial and volunteer resources continue to support pre-natal outreach, Blast Off to Kindergarten, Born Learning trails, Literacy Baskets and Totes educational resources, a local provider conference, THRIVE parent coaching and On My Way Pre-K. For more information and online resources, visit www.unitedwaymadisonco.org/bornlearning.
 
We are focusing advocacy efforts to address access barriers for child care development funds. We are also researching resources and needs for caretakers, including foster parents and others who are caring for displaced children.
 
Plenty of research validates the importance of providing children with a caring environment and opportunities to learn. Long-term benefits include reductions in grade retention; reduced crime and delinquency; increased graduation rates; and increased adult economic success.
 
In an ideal world, all families would have the capacity to provide for their own children. In the real world, to help them and all of us live better, we must live united by helping every child in every community to thrive.
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