It takes a village to raise a child.
We’ve all heard that adage, but recently our two-day kidonomics Forum here in Raleigh drove home the truth of that message for me.
Officially, my job at the 2018 IEI kidonomics Forum (held Feb. 5-6 in Raleigh) was social media—Tweeting, posting, snapping and reporting any and all pertinent information I could gather from the massive event. These days, a reporter’s tools are often smartphone and computer, rather than pen and paper, but the job’s still mainly about listening. And over two days at the Forum, I listened . . . and I listened . . . and then I listened some more.
I listened to reams of early childhood experts from Tracy Zimmerman of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation to Dr. Jeanette Betancourt of Sesame Workshop talk about the ins and outs of early childhood, from literacy programs to trauma care. I listened as leaders from North Carolina business and government—big names like SAS founder Jim Goodnight and NC Governor Roy Cooper—added their say on how healthy, well-educated children made for a healthy, high-functioning state.
I listened to people in the audience, people like like Joan White, a member of the Edenton-Chowan School board, who was interested in learning more about early childhood agency collaboration.
I listened to people like Ed McKinney, a plainspoken Methodist pastor from Fairview UMC in Thomasville, eager for help with his church’s summer reading program. (And Ed’s still looking, y’all help him out!)
My short conversation with Ed drove one of the Forum’s most important purposes home for me. Along with the policy talk, all the speeches and selfies with Elmo—though saying I met Elmo will probably be a life highpoint—the Forum was as much about the people in the seats as the people on the stage.
The Forum was about these hardworking people from across our great state willing to invest their time to BE THE VILLAGE for some of the most vulnerable children in their communities.
The kidonomics Forum gave these people a place to network and collaborate.
Because in the 21st century, the “village” often needs more intentional building than it did even a generation ago, as parental work patterns and transitional communities can leave families barely knowing their neighbors.
Fewer and fewer kids grow up like I did, surrounded by a ready-made tribe of cousins and aunts and teachers who had taught my parents. Fewer kids spend their entire childhood in just one place, and even those that do have fewer adults to step in and be the adult role models they need.
So, now that the Forum is over I ask you (and myself) how are you going to be part of the village?
Are you going to start a summer reading program like Pastor McKinney? Are you going to volunteer at church, or your child’s school? Will you donate to Smart Start or another early childhood agency? Or perhaps take a little extra time with that niece or nephew going through a rough spot?
The kidonomics s Forum focused on early childhood development, but remember, kids need support at all ages.
They need people like you to be a part of their tribe.
If the Forum inspired you to start, or continue working with kids your community in some way, IEI would love to hear about it! Email Beth Hatcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.