The early years are considered to be those from birth to age six, when our brain is much like a sponge, continuously soaking up information. During this period children develop a sense of themselves in relation to family and community. They discover the world through exploration, play and questions, all requiring caregiver encouragement and validation.
Experiences have powerful effects on emotional, physical and mental abilities and capacity. They create lifelong potential for learning in such areas as math, logic, language and music. These patterns are very difficult to change later on even though the brain continues to develop and mature in many areas.
The Early Years Study: Real Brain Drain (1999), put forth by Dr. Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain, shows that the more interaction a child has with a loving and nurturing adult during their first six years, the greater their intellectual, emotional, physical and social development will be. This report was the rationale for the creation of Ontario Early Years Centres across Ontario. There are four main sites with numerous satellite and mobile sites across Niagara.
Niagara has been very forward thinking with respect to the early years. We have developed the Niagara Children's Charter of Rights, which has been endorsed by all 12 municipalities of Niagara, all school boards and several community organizations. Our literacy initiatives include the Regional Chair Early Years Niagara Literary Award for children's literature aimed at the 0-6 age group, the "Touch a Truck" fundraiser for children's literacy, and family literacy events.
Niagara Children's Planning Council with the Business Education Council of Niagara links sectors across Niagara for projects and initiatives for children. The Business Education Council of Niagara (BEC) is a non-profit organization that is committed to improving people's skills throughout their lives, to match and support those created by economic development. The BEC believes that the early years is an integral part of the people development continuum, and that investment in this critical period is essential.