DANBURY, Conn. – Caroline LaFleur believes a child’s success in school starts before he or she gets to the kindergarten door. As the coordinator for Danbury’s Promise for Children Partnership, she helps families get on the right path early.
“All the action is between birth and age 5,’’ said LaFleur, who has been coordinator for three years. “Children need foundational skills before they even get to school. They need to know things like how to hold a pencil, how to line up, how to sit still and listen to a teacher. It makes a huge difference in how they do when they get to kindergarten.”
Under LaFleur’s leadership, the partnership has created strategies to assist Danbury families. The partnership focuses on school readiness, parenting that supports healthy development and learning, and health awareness.
According to the partnership website, more than 30 percent of Danbury children come from families that are of lower economic means and more than 25 percent are born to mothers who have not completed high school.
“It all starts with parents,’’ LaFleur said. “They should be reading to children, giving them new experiences and talking to them. Language development is very dependent on the parent.”
The proper encouragement and support from parents, along with quality early learning experiences in preschool, LaFleur said, make the most profound impact when a child starts school.
“If they’re confident and ready to learn, they’ll succeed in school,’’ LaFleur said. “If they’re not reading on grade level by third grade, there is a greater chance they’ll drop out without finishing high school. You need to have their skills developed at four and five years old so that they have good feelings at schools and are confident in their skills.”
LaFleur, who has been active in early childhood education in Danbury for nearly a decade, said resources are available for parents to support their children. Many people don’t know how to access them, however. She believes parents who work with early educators to develop early learning skills for their children are critical to closing the achievement gap.
“This is the way to break the cycle of poverty,’’ she said. “If low-income children can have the same educational opportunities as their peers, they’ll succeed in life. It’s so important that children not have opportunities limited by the circumstances they are born into. Whether it’s having a doctorate in physics or becoming a carpenter, all children should have the opportunity to reach their potential. We want all children to succeed.”