December 20, 2021

No Small Matter Documentary Virtual Screening

Shelly Dorfman, grade-level reading advocate

No Small Matter is a feature-length documentary film and national engagement campaign that brings public attention to the importance of early childhood education and the ways investing in it pays dividends in social, economic, and civic terms. 

Thanks to new brain-scanning technology and rigorous inquiry, scientists understand more about children’s brains. When a child lacks an engaging, loving environment, “toxic” experiences have the power to rewire their brain, with consequences that can last a lifetime. 

Today there is consensus amongst the fields of neuroscience, education, and developmental psychology that a child’s experiences between ages zero to five have an enormous impact on their opportunity to thrive for the rest of their life — from academic achievement to health to their future earnings as an adult. 

In the documentary, teachers and parents marvel at how much more prepared for life children are who have heard millions of words before they ever reach the school system. Race and social class become less important in determining a child’s future when they’re in a great daycare before kindergarten. They grow up to be better educated, higher earners, and are less likely to have problems with the law. 

If there’s one fact everyone should understand from this documentary, it’s that this big hope for a better, smarter, fairer, and healthier America is “No Small Matter.”

Watch Separately, Discuss Together was our theme for the screening of this documentary, which took place on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16. Dr. Sheila Halpin organized a watch party at King’s Station in Bradenton, where 48 people attended, including Manatee Superintendent Cynthia Saunders and School Board members Charlie Kennedy and Mary Foreman. More than 200 people watched nationally. 

The documentary discussed vital issues, including child care, the business of early education, English as a Second Language, funding, investing in quality education, The Abecedarian Project, the opportunity gap, and research.          

No Small Matter Virtual Community Conversation: The No Small Matter Community Conversation was held on Wednesday, November 15, at 6:30 PM. We were fortunate to host these panelists: 

*Dr. Sharon and Craig Ramey, world-renowned researchers from The Abecedarian Project, which showed that early childhood educational experiences had significant gains for the participants – even 40 years later. They also spoke about reaching all children and working collaboratively to share our strengths. 

*Kathleen Sullivan, VP of Programs for Children First, an Early Head Start and a Head Start Program of Excellence, ranking in the top 1% of more than 1,800 programs nationwide, talked about the critical need for family engagement and the need to improve the low wages of PreK teachers.

*Dr. Robin Thompson, director of Early Learning in Manatee, a visionary who advocated to have PreK as a full-day program in 18 classrooms in Title I schools. She spoke about the support of the Manatee School District and other community efforts, including as Soar in 4, a monthly community event for families, and the TOPP program where paraprofessionals can earn their teaching degree.  

*Dr. Chelsea Arnold, initiative manager of First 1,000 Days, a community-based collaborative effort that helps parents/families navigate health, community, and educational services for their children from birth to age three. Dr. Arnold spoke of the 80+ community organizations working together to provide our youngest children and their families with the services and opportunities to thrive. 

In addition, we had non-profit presenters including: 

*Dr. Sheila Halpin, from Soar in 4, a monthly program where early learners and their families meet and work with more than 25 community organizations, providing hands-on learning experiences held at the Bishop Museum 

*Michelle Kapreilian, director of Forty Carrots, whose Partners in Play program brings together parents and early child parenting educators at the Manatee and Sarasota libraries supporting parents to be their child’s first and most important teacher

*Ana McClendon spoke about Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota‘s Storybook Street in Sarasota and Venice. More than 600 people experienced stories that came to life via performances by arts organizations, and families were gifted 17 free books!

*Dr. Barbara Shirley, principal of Alta Vista Elementary School. Alta Vista’s summer 2Gen approach increased students’ school readiness, decreased summer learning loss, and had parents attending classes at the Parent University. Everyone learned!!!!

*Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, shared information about Suncoast Remake Learning Days, a new learning festival celebrating some 125+ hands-on learning experiences that will take place from April 30 to May 9, 2022, sponsored by The Patterson Foundation

More than 114 guests participated in the conversation, with questions ranging from a financial understanding of the Return on Investment (ROI) for early childhood to the political impact of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, including universal PreK. 

No Small Matter Survey: 55 people responded to the survey, with three participants receiving a Barnes & Noble gift card. In nearly every response, people expressed the need for parental/family education and better wages for PreK teachers. In addition, 25 participants from Manatee and 10 HIPPY participants received CEU credits with additional written responses. The Survey responses were very informative and will help us go to the next step.

From the very start of this initiative, we said that the documentary No Small Matter would be a jumping off point for more early childhood education discussions and opportunities. We hope to have another No Small Matter Community Conversation in early February during Florida’s Children’s Week and hope you will join us. We thank everyone for their participation and hope that No Small Matter was enlightening and A CALL TO ACTION!

 


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