|About the Conference|
"Learning begins in the first days of life. Scientists are now discovering how young children develop emotionally and intellectually from their very first days, and how important it is for parents to begin immediately talking, singing, even reading to their infants....We already know we should start teaching children before they start school."
On April 17, 1997, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning: What New Research on the Brain Tells Us About Our Youngest Children. The day-long conference highlighted new scientific findings on brain development in very young children and pointed to the importance of children's earliest experiences in helping them get off to a strong and healthy start.
Applying New Findings on Brain Development in the Earliest Years. New scientific research shows that experiences after birth -- particularly in the first three years of life -- have a dramatic impact on brain development. That means that nurturing, talking to, singing to and reading to our youngest children will improve their ability to learn and develop throughout their lives. The White House Conference focused on the practical applications of the latest scientific research on the brain, particularly for parents and caregivers. The conference was also a call to action to all members of society -- including the health, business, media and faith communities, child care providers and government -- to use this information to strengthen America's families.
Clinton Administration Commitment to Young Children. The conference built on the Clinton Administration's investment in children and families. The Administration has invested heavily in research to help us better understand the importance of the first few years of life to child development and learning. Between 1993 and 1997, funding for NIH children's research increased 25%, from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.
President Clinton has also strengthened efforts to support families with young children. To take just a few examples, the Administration raised funding for Head Start -- providing low-income children and their families with comprehensive education, health services, and nutrition -- by 43% over the last four years and created the Early Head Start program to support families with children ages zero to three. The President's FY 1998 Budget further increases participation to reach 122,000 more children in FY 1998 than when he took office. The Administration also dramatically increased participation in the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program, providing 7.4 million pregnant women, infants, and children with nutrition packages and information and health referrals -- 1.7 million more than when President Clinton took office. And his FY 1998 Budget would achieve his goal of full participation in the WIC program by the end of FY 1998.
Conference Program and Participants. During the morning session of the conference, leading researchers and child development experts discussed the new research and what it means for parents and caregivers. The panelists for that session were: Dr. David Hamburg, Carnegie Corporation of New York (moderator); Dr. Carla Shatz, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Donald Cohen, Yale Child Study Center; Dr. Patricia Kuhl, University of Washington; Dr. Ezra Davidson, Drew University of Medicine, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Harvard University; and Dr. Deborah Phillips, National Research Council. The afternoon session highlighted model community efforts to support parents and enhance early childhood development. The panelists included: Avance Family Support and Education Program, San Antonio, TX; the CEO and Chairman of the Board, The Kellogg Company, Battle Creek Michigan; and Ounce of Prevention, Chicago, IL.
Broad Participation Across the Country. The morning session of the conference was by satellite to nearly 100 locations across the country. The satellite conferences were co-hosted by regional federal agencies, local officials, and children's and other organizations.