Becoming a Children's Champion through Advocacy
Throughout this book, you have seen numerous references to the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the policies and actions pursued by the organization to improve early childhood experiences for each and every child. NAEYC (1995) outlines five steps that one can take to advocate for children and become a children's champion.
- Speak out on behalf of children by communicating information about the necessity for quality experiences for young children. You can do this with friends, colleagues, legislators, letters to the local paper, or community leaders. Your opinion and voice can carry important information to people in a position to make decisions.
- Help one child beyond your family. Perhaps you live in a neighborhood where several school-aged children are home alone after school or in the early evening. This might be an opportunity for you to ask the family if you could plan an activity for their child one evening a week. Your time and energy with this child can make a difference to the child.
- Be an informed voter in your community—research the decisions and stances that different public officials advocate for young children. Legislative decisions affect the funding and availability of early childhood programs and services (e.g., welfare reform). Your vote and voice are important to elected officials in making changes that support the growth and development of young children.
- Explore the service opportunities within the organizations of which you are a member. Perhaps your church or club could raise funds for equipment for a child care center or volunteer to work two hours a month at a local school. Often, the suggestion of helping a neighborhood school, park, or child care center is enough to get others to create new partnerships that benefit young children.
- Encourage others to join you in supporting young children and the availability of services and resources for young children. When you gather a group of friends together to prepare a garden plot for a nearby preschool program, you are making a contribution. Watching the children planting and tending their vegetable plants promotes an even greater satisfaction in your advocacy role.
Committing yourself to implementing these five steps creates more children's -champions—people willing to stand up for the rights and welfare of children. Acting together, we can improve public understanding, support, and funding of high-quality early childhood programs, making a difference for young children, their families, and the teaching profession (Robinson & Stark, 2005). By following these steps, you help build a better world for yourself as well as for children, creating a stronger village.
Advocacy is an essential element of professionalism. What is professionalism? How do you become a professional? These questions are addressed in the next section.
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