NAEYC brings you a limited time preview of the 5-episode documentary series.
In collaboration with the filmmakers, NAEYC is giving participants in the 2016 Week of the Young Child full access to The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation. This exclusive, limited access is available to all at raisingofamerica.
What Is The Raising of America?
The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation is a new, five-part documentary series probing how conditions faced by young children and their families can literally alter the developing brain and affect a child’s later success—in school and in life. Neuroscience and other studies indicate that providing our youngest children safe, secure and nurturing environments pays many dividends, both for individuals and for the future health, prosperity and equity of the nation. Many experts even argue that investing in young children and their families may be the smartest investment any nation can make.
The Raising of America is the first documentary series to translate these scientific findings into compelling stories that challenge how parents, providers, policymakers and the public think about society’s interest and responsibilities in these first crucial years. The series, supported by an ambitious companion website at www.raisingofamerica.org, is being used by more than 600 partner organizations to reframe the way Americans look at early childhood health and development and spark a much-needed national conversation: Will the U.S. better assure the conditions that all children need for a strong start and put the nation on a path towards a healthier, safer, better educated, more prosperous and more equitable tomorrow? Or will it squander its own future? The series zeroes in on several themes about why some children thrive while others flounder:
Brains are built, not born
Brains are built over time. The developing brain forms more than 700 new neural
connections (or synapses) every second during the first years of life! This brain
architecture provides the foundation for future learning, behaviors and mental and
physical health—for better and for worse.
• How our brain cells get wired together depends upon early relationships and environments.
• Safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments help form sturdy brain architecture and a strong start in life. On the other hand, frequent or prolonged exposures to early adversity—poverty, neglect, chaos, violence—can result in
• Toxic stress alters brain architecture and increases the risk of behavioral, emotional
and learning problems later in life, including chronic disease in middle age.
• While new neural connections can form throughout life, it’s easier and less costly
to form strong brain architecture during the early years than to intervene later.
Blaming parents is the easy way out
Families don’t live inside a bubble. Parents are increasingly pressed by circumstances beyond their control, which in turn can hamper their efforts to provide the safe, stable and nurturing environments all young children need.
• Middle-income parents feel they’re drowning in a sea of long work hours and commutes, stagnant wages, rising housing costs and a lack of paid parental leave.
• Low-income parents face even more stressors: low wages, insecure jobs and unreliable hours, chaotic neighborhoods, no paid sick leave and the anxiety of juggling bills.
• Workers in low-wage jobs are disproportionately Black, Latino and female.
• Stressors on parents can be “contagious”: they can get under the skin of babies and young children, altering the wiring of their developing brains—with enduring consequences.
The best parenting programs may have little to do with parenting at all
A disproportionate focus on parents’ choices ignores the forces that can help or hinder their efforts to be the parents they want to be. Improving conditions for parents can improve young children’s chances of growing into healthy, compassionate and responsible adults.
• It’s harder for parents to be responsive to the often-subtle needs of babies whendenied paid parental leave, sick leave or even a single paid vacation day or
• Young children benefit from an infrastructure that promotes care: living wages and reliable hours, quality, affordable housing, paid parental and family leave, social inclusion and desegregation, flex time, better transit, and affordable, high quality childcare.
• Even the best teaching about breastfeeding won’t help if we don’t also ensure that working mothers are given time, privacy and access to a refrigerator at work so they can pump.
Young children are America’s smartest investment
Today’s children are tomorrow’s parents, neighbors, workers, citizens and leaders.
• Studies suggest that creating the conditions all children need for a strong start
offers the best chance for improving adult outcomes.
• Everyone gains from a healthier, safer, better educated, more equitable and
prosperous American future.
Change is possible
The U.S. has a long history of social movements improving conditions for families with
young children—from ending child labor and creating the eight-hour work day to the
civil rights and women’s movements. We’ve done it before; we can do it again.
• The conditions and policies that impede our ability to provide for our children
aren’t etched in stone. They are the result of decisions we as a body politic have
made—decisions we have the power to change.
Source: The Raising of America News Kit