BATH — The Week of the Young Child takes place April 19-25 and the communities of Regional School Unit 1 are celebrating with art displays and events in the greater Bath area.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is promoting the week, providing an opportunity to bring awareness to young children’s needs. That awareness is spread by Head Start and child-care programs, and in preschools and elementary schools.

This is the third year the week has been celebrated around Bath, according to Rosalie Perkins, chairman of the Bath Area Preschool Initiative Collaborative.

“We have become very involved in early childhood education as far as implementing a pre-K program to the public school and raising awareness of the importance of early child care and education,” Perkins said.

Starting education off early in a child’s life has a variety of benefits, she pointed out. “It means fewer special education referrals,” Perkins said. “There have been studies that have been done that show lifelong advantages as far as people being economically further ahead in their lives.”

Other pluses include greater high school graduation rates, improved performance on standardized tests and reduced grade repetition, teen pregnancy, crime and delinquency.

The focus of the week is not just education, but also the physical and emotional health of young children. “All of those pieces are so important,” Perkins said. “It sets the stage for the rest of their lives.”

The week not only celebrates young children, but also the people who work with them.

Art created by young children will be displayed around downtown Bath, along with kites that will have been flown by individual child-related programs.

Perkins noted that RSU 1 is working with community providers to develop a universal pre-K program.

“It’s a three-year plan,” she explained. “This coming fall we hope to be able to provide preschool programming for 50 children, and then the year after that, 50 more, and the year after that, another 50 to 75 until all of RSU 1 children have access to universal pre-K. … We’re just thrilled that this is getting off the ground.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

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