"Mississippi Building Blocks" provides early education - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

"Mississippi Building Blocks" provides early education

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By Ashley Conroy - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - It's no secret Mississippi lacks public funding for pre-school, but a    state-wide program is taking another route to help with early-childhood development.  Program officials said Wednesday more and more research shows the earlier children are exposed to "quality" education, the better off they are in the long-run.

It looks and sounds like your typical day care center, but actually it isn't.

Boyd's Day Care Center is one of many throughout the state that is part of the "Mississippi Building Blocks" program to help improve early-childhood education.

"With Mississippi Building Blocks, they offered the funds and the training," said Cassandra Lenston, owner of Boyd's.

For this Jackson facility, that means thousands of dollars in new equipment and training to help the teachers who work with the children on a daily basis.

So far, the extra help seems to be working.

"They want you to read to them then they try to mimic you reading, so you know we really enjoy seeing them learn," said Lenston.

The center is one of the reading centers for 2-year-old's in the state.  Lenston said this is the children's favorite thing to do, exactly the goal the program is trying to achieve.

"It's about playing and interacting and engaging with the teacher.  Lots of language and lots of reading,"  said the executive director of the program, Laurie Smith, Ph.D. 

Building blocks hopes to prove to state officials that more help is needed for centers like this one.

"We're hoping to have data to show in three-to-four years to show legislators there's really a need for more help for these child-care centers," said Smith. 

Some state legislators agree but have some concerns.  House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown said this is something they're trying to visit in the future.

"How would it be structured?  Would it be purely public sector, or would it be a joint venture between public and private sector," said Brown.

For now, children at places like Boyd's Day Care Center can have fun while learning the skills needed to have what Mississippi Building Blocks said is a "quality" education.

Currently, this program exists in about 15 counties in the state.  This pilot study will take four years to complete, and proponents said they hope to continue the program in all of Mississippi's counties by then.

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