Complaints about the cost of childcare are common in my circle of friends, but there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our children to be educated and ready for school when that time comes. And for my circle, the reality is that we can all afford it. We may think we can’t because it cuts into our savings or our vacation budget or our clothing budget, but at the end of the day, we can make it work.
Sure, I have friends who stay at home with their children and teach them all the things their children will need to know when it comes time for Kindergarten. (How they have the patience for that is something I will never know!) And I have other friends whose children have special needs, and these parents amazingly find all the resources out there to give their children the best chance of success possible. Providing these learning opportunities is giving our children a leg up. They show up to kindergarten knowing the alphabet, the sounds that letters make, simple math and even a little reading.
I wish every child had the opportunities that my and my friends’ children have. The reality is that they don’t. The reality is that the childcare that I and many of my friends are paying for costs close to what a minimum wage worker brings home in a year. The reality is that in Memphis, a city with a 28.3% poverty rate, a good majority of families don’t have the option of cutting out savings or a vacation budget to pay for daycare. It would be cutting out rent and food.
Memphis only has about half of the pre-kindergarten spots that we need. About 9,000 kids start kindergarten each year and there is roughly half of that number of pre-K spots. While it’s fantastic that Memphis recently received a huge federal grant to add 1,000 pre-K spots over the next three years, it’s simply not enough. There are roughly 3,000 spots still needed.
The research around early childhood education shows that students who have access to pre-K are more successful in school and in life. They have stronger test scores and are less likely to drop out of high school.
The Junior League of Memphis has a special place to be able to help the lives of students. Under the umbrella of our G.R.O.W. initiative at Lester Community Center, the JLM has volunteers working with pre-K and kindergarten students at Brewster Elementary. This is a great example of the work that is being done to help students succeed. According to Reading at Brewster Chair, Erica Coopwood, “The G.R.O.W. program, while designed to be fun, always has an educational component that coincides with the children’s curriculum to help them reach their full potential and have a great time doing it.”
The reality is that there is great work happening with the children at Brewster and Lester Community Center. The JLM volunteers are helping to ensure that these children receive their leg up and be successful down the road in school and in life. The JLM is making a collective impact on the lives of children who are the future of Memphis.
Community Task Force Volunteer, 2014-2015
Junior League of Memphis