Spring 2011—As NAEYC celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Week of the Young Child™ from April 10-16, 2011, states, local communities, and educators are joyously rising to the occasion. They're hosting hundreds of events to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families, and to recognize early childhood programs and services.
A look back
The concept of a nationwide week focusing on the needs of young children began to form in the 1950s. The idea was inspired by successful city and state events held, most notably, in California (Nursery Education Week) and Chicago (Week of the Young Child™) in the mid-1950s.
These were exciting times for early childhood educators and activists. June Aimen, longtime member of the Chicago Metro AEYC, says, “We knew how important early childhood education and early intervention [were], and we were beginning to be validated.” By 1969, a high level of interest in a national week was voiced at the annual conference, and in 1971 NAEYC sponsored the first national Week of the Young Child™.
Marilyn Smith, who was on the NAEYC staff in 1971 and served as executive director from 1972-1999, says that from the start the national focus of the Week of the Young Child™ was on promoting the state affiliates. Smith says, “The goal was to get communities organizing their own activities on the local level, and it was very popularly received. The time was right. People understood how important it was.” According to Smith, it was not just about enrolling more children in individual centers, it was about communities coming together as advocates for children.
A look around
Forty years later, the goal of the Week of the Young Child™ remains the same, but the scale of the event has grown. Communities nationwide buzz with festivals, parades, free museum visits, artwork exhibits, banquets for teachers, festivals for families, and crafts for children. Here are some of the creative ways that communities are coming together this week for children:
- In Arizona, the Diamondbacks and AzAEYC hosted a Week of the Young Child™ Celebration Day at Chase Field on Sunday, when the Diamondbacks played the Cincinnati Reds.
- Durango, Colorado is celebrating with yoga for youngsters and a “Fired-up” storytime with firefighters and rescue personnel.
- The mayor in Rockford, Illinois will kick things off by presenting The Week of the Young Child™ Proclamation at the City council meeting. The Discovery Center Museum and the Junior League will also host “Kids in the Kitchen,” an event to educate families on healthy eating and fitness.
- In Amelia Island, Florida, children and their families will be making, decorating, and flying their own kites. And the Florida AEYC took a step-by-step approach to raise statewide awareness about early childhood education, health, and fitness. Educators in 60 centers, schools, and agencies across the state wore donated pedometers for one week, recording a grand total of 88, 231,179 steps, proving that the term babySITTER does not apply!
To find out what’s happening in your community this week, tune into your local radio station, pick up a newspaper, or review this state-by-state listing of Week of the Young Child™ news stories.