Week of free, low-cost events designed to call attention to value of early childhood learning

This week, Best Beginnings of Homer celebrates the “Week of the Young Child” to bring attention to the needs of young children and their families and to recognize early childhood programs and services.

“Best Beginnings is a coalition of local nonprofit agencies and individuals who support early childhood education in Homer,” said Jenny Martin, Best Beginnings coordinator.

“We put together a full week of free or low-cost events to celebrate and promote early learning.”

“This event is nation-wide and growing in support,” said Jill Lush, executive director of Sprout Family Services, one of the many agencies that make up Best Beginnings. 

During the Week of the Young Child, Sprout will host playgroups, events and dance classes where they hope to help families enroll their children in the Imagination Library program. 

“The Imagination Library is a fabulous program that was started by country singer Dolly Parton,” said Lush.

“Every child who’s enrolled receives a brand new, age-appropriate book in the mail every month until they’re five years old.” 

By the time a child turns 5, they will have received 60 new books, free of charge. 

“Most of the events going on during Week of the Young Child happen in Homer every week, like the library story hour, toddler play group and dance classes, but during the Week of the Young Child, they make these events even more special than they already are,” said Lila Johnson, a Homer parent and teacher.

“Many events happen during the work day but there are still a few opportunities to take my boys to some of the weekend events like the SAFE Kids Fair and Story Tracks at the Wynn Nature Center.” 

On Friday, there will be a community discussion for the public and those working in the field of early childhood education. 

“In past years we’ve had a great mix of parents and professionals attending the community café,” said Martin.

“It’s a full day event but people can pick and choose what parts they want to attend. We simply ask that they RSVP.”

The community café starts with a presentation on working with young children who have experienced trauma and the new Trauma Informed Community initiative. 

At noon, there will be a strategic planning workshop and a free lunch to discuss what goals our community has for early education and how to support young children and their families. 

On Friday afternoon, Cathy Stingley of Handle of Homer will do a presentation on sensory integration skills and young children. She will give an overview and offer specific tools that can be used by professionals, child care providers, parents and others working with young children. 

The entire week culminates in the annual SAFE Kids Fair on Saturday, April 26, at Homer High School. This free event will have information booths on activities, wellness and safety for children. 

For more information about the Week of the Young Child, visit bestbeginningsalaska.org and search for Best Beginnings Homer or visit their Facebook page.

Sarah Richardson is a freelance writer and the author of the blog “Becoming Alaskan — Life at the End of the Road.” She and her husband, Bill, and their two children live in Homer.

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