CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

Time magazine's cover story in the current issue discusses an explosion of knowledge about the brains of babies and young children and the inestimable importance of nurturing young brains in the critical early years.

The articles may sound like dry science, but they offer for laypersons stimulating information about why personal decisions within families and public policies applied to millions of children will affect our individual and national well-being.

The series of articles, "Fertile Minds," summarizes the research findings by doctors and other scientists at leading universities about how the brains of newborns prepare for a lifetime of experience from birth through about age 10.

The scientific story actually begins with fetal brains' intense activity during in vitro development. The focus of the articles, however, shines light on what should happen with babies and children as they experience the world outside the womb.

"Deprived of a stimulating environment, a child's brain suffers. Researchers at Baylor's College of Medicine, for example, have found that children who don't play much or are rarely touched develop brains 20 percent to 30 percent smaller than normal for their age," the articles report.

Babies, toddlers and young children, it has been known by observant parents as well as scientific professionals, possess amazing capacities for learning. Time's cover story illuminates and reinforces the importance, first, of strong nurture within families and, second, of society's responsibility for ensuring that as many children as possible get the nurture they need outside the home. Sometimes, as most people agree, the nurture outside the home takes on primary importance because of its absence with parents, guardians or other primary caregivers.

CONSIDER IMPLICATIONS

Every parent, parent-to-be, public policy maker (like legislators), and humanitarian institutions (like churches and foundations) should consider the implications of what Time reports.

First, assume personal responsibility for actions and behavior that enhances and strengthens the primary role of parents/families as sources of nurture in the important early years.

Second, work toward public and institutional policies that provide and/or supplement the care that should be given and begin in the home, but sometimes does not take take place.

Every week, as Time notes, 77,000 babies in the United States begin the adventure of life. Their brains provide the foundation for their future and that of our the nation. How we treat and feed and emotionally nurture those amazing organs should concern all of us.

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