Community column - First Five

Emilia Reyes, First 5 Fresno County, Executive Director

When you brought your newborn baby home from the hospital did you drive a good 20 miles under the speed limit like I did? Were you so cautious in everything you did, for fear of doing something wrong? Me, too. And I'm guessing you and I are not alone.

Babies don't come with parent manuals when they are born. We enter into parenthood with experiences handed down to us from our own parents and from what we've seen from parents around us. Sometimes this is a good start. Sometimes it is not. Unless we are experts in early childhood development, it's likely that we all will need some guidance along the way. We need to know how to best communicate with our young children, help them learn, get along with others and so much more. We need information, help and support.

I'm the executive director at First 5 Fresno County -- an organization dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of children ages 0-5 and their families -- and I'm also a mom, and I get it. I know that parenting can bring so many what-ifs that the weight can be tremendous. Fortunately, First 5 Fresno County is here to help. We invest in efforts that support parents with knowledge and resources to help their young children thrive.
The majority of the brain develops in the first three years of life. By exposing children to positive experiences early on, we help ensure they walk onto the school campus their first day of kindergarten ready to learn. Ready to learn does not necessarily mean that the child is reciting his ABCs and 123s. Being ready to learn is so much more than that. A child is ready to learn when he knows he is loved. She is confident. His curiosity is embraced. Her physical body is well. He is ready to learn. It takes parents, families, neighbors, schools and the community to get our young kids to this place.

Equipped parents don't know everything, they just know when and where to ask for help. First 5 Fresno County is working to equip parents by providing them with information about what to expect as their babies grow from within the womb to school-aged children, and every stage in between.

In addition, First 5 Fresno County is proud to partner with Fresno Unified and other school districts through the Birth to Third Grade Initiative. This initiative helps schools and communities create support for children and parents every step of the way, from birth through third grade. This new way of investing in young children and families is making such great strides that Fresno Unified has attracted additional funding from the Lucile Packard Foundation to improve parents', caregivers' and educators' interactions with young children -- a great win for parents and their little ones.

And finally, the community can help by ensuring resources are readily available to families. Yes, we as parents are our children's first teachers, but we aren't their only teachers. First 5 Fresno County partners with organizations to connect families with young children to whatever it is they need to thrive. Perhaps it's as simple as providing parents with tips on interacting with their babies. Or maybe it's as complex as helping a parent identify a child's disability and connecting them to state-funded services. For many, it's somewhere in between. Whatever the case, we want parents, pediatricians, childcare providers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and teachers to all have somewhere to turn when they are concerned about a child in their care. More importantly, we want to connect them to the resources they need to help that child succeed -- and be ready for kindergarten.

Yes, the responsibility of parenting becomes oh-so-real on that extraordinarily slow ride home from the hospital. The good news, though, is that we as parents are not alone. First 5 Fresno County is here to help build a community that supports parents and is devoted to helping all young children in Fresno County thrive.

For more information, visit www.first5fresno.org.
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