To the Editor:
I am currently working with a wonderful group of women and instructors at the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) with OneCranston, which is an initiative of CCAP. PLTI also has a partnership with Roger Williams University as an accredited program. As students and leaders of this program, we are working on individual projects for the betterment of our children and the local community.
My project is called Little Learners Playgroup. Little Learners Playgroup will offer free, weekly, fun and educational STEM/Sensory experiences for parents and their children ages 0-5 in Cranston. According to census data, five percent of the population of Cranston is age 5 or younger. My project addresses the lack of affordable, early childhood development, educational play activities, and socialization experiences in Cranston.
Studies have proven that quality early childhood education, even in small doses, helps children and their parents get ahead and that years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Many child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains as they grow.
Currently, middle-income families are being left behind with not only affordable childcare but early childhood developmental and socialization experiences due to wait lists and shortages. Those in the poverty level are able to obtain subsidies, whilst those above the poverty level are struggling to find and afford childcare and often have had to leave the workforce as they don’t have the support that they need or would be working only to pay for childcare.
We are sorely in need of a Boys and Girls Club in Cranston and according to the Cranston YMCA website, they do not offer a daycare program in Cranston despite our size and demographics. These are services, along with the Little Learners Playgroup that our community needs. According to recent census data and other sources, the current poverty rate in Rhode Island for a family of 4 is almost $56,000 per year. The median household income for Cranston is just over $64,000 a year. Whilst the cost of living for the average homeowner in Cranston is just about $118,000 per year and this does not include the cost of childcare or taxes. This leaves a massive wage vs. cost of living gap to be bridged and disposable income is a dream for many. Thus why a program such as Little Learners is so needed in our community. Financial inequality impacts all families and early childhood education opportunities. Little Learners is seeking to help remediate that gap for a community of our size and partner with other organizations to create the opportunities that our children deserve.