Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:52 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alaska movie designed to help parents keep 'Babies on Track'



Abbe Hensley

What do the Moose Pass Sportsman's Club, the Lower Yukon School District, Juneau's Bartlett Hospital and volunteers with Imagination Library all have in common?

Answer: Every one of this disparate group — and many others — are hosting a premiere of Best Beginnings' "Babies on Track" during the premiere "week" Feb. 25 through March 4.

More than 160 premieres are scheduled in 80-plus villages, towns and cities all over Alaska, including Homer and Anchor Point. The events will raise the curtain on Best Beginnings' production of "Babies on Track," a delightful 14-minute video featuring all-Alaska locations and an all-Alaska cast.

'Babies on Track' Movie Premieres in Homer and Anchor Point:

• Feb. 28 and March 1, Playgroups with Sprout (formerly Birth 2 Three). Movie, playgroup activities. Sponsored by Sprout. For more information: 235-6044

• March 1, 5:30 p.m. at the Homer Public Library. Geared toward dads and kids. Movie, activities and food. Sponsored by Homer Public Library and Kachemak Kids Early Learning Center. For more information: 435-3176

• March 1, 6:30 p.m. at Chapman School in Anchor Point. Movie, activities, snacks, information on Imagination Library. Sponsored by the Anchor Point Imagination Library program. For more information: 503-680-2012.

"Babies on Track" isn't merely entertaining, although it's definitely that. More important, it shows parents in an enjoyable way how their positive and frequent interactions foster their babies' early learning and healthy brain development. This is especially helpful for parents who just didn't realize how critical these interactions are.

Some of the most valuable experiences of a baby's life also are the easiest to create: interacting with babies during everyday activities helps them learn language, sounds and social skills, essential building blocks to future learning.

The "Babies on Track" DVD comes with two companion baby board books — "Let's Talk Alaska!" and "Our Alaska Family" — which provide parents the chance to apply ideas from "Babies on Track" right away. Parents of children under 2 who attend a "Babies on Track" premiere will receive a free set of the DVD and companion board books.

Best Beginnings provides materials for the premieres and guidance for organizing the events. But the volunteer hosts, themselves, are doing the legwork and covering any associated costs.

Why? I think it's because Alaskans are starting to get it, to understand that we adults in a child's life can make or break a child's prospects for success in school and success in life. Research into brain development provides compelling evidence that what happens in a child's first few years has a huge impact on how children turn out, for good or ill.

The baby brain grows more in its earliest years — before 3 years old — than at any other time in human life. It's also when language is taking shape in their brains. Sounds, conversation, talking and interaction are important before they can talk themselves. Babies exposed to plenty of all this have larger vocabularies and they're ready for kindergarten by age 5.

Our mission here at Best Beginnings is to ensure that every child in Alaska has the chance to start school ready to succeed. If a child starts school with a sturdy brain infrastructure, if he's healthy and well cared for, if he has developed social and cognitive skills appropriate for his age, he is more likely to succeed in school.

The child who is successful in school is less likely to drop out and more likely to graduate. The child who graduates from high school is more likely to become a healthy and productive member of the community.

It starts with the parents — and with a community that supports parents. Few parents raise their children in isolation. Families belong to communities and communities have a lot at stake in helping parents raise healthy, successful children.

The enthusiasm with which Alaskans in more than 80 communities are embracing that concept by hosting a "Babies on Track" premiere is a powerful argument indeed that communities are climbing on the bandwagon to support young children and their families.

For more information on the area movie premieres please contact the sponsors noted in the box at left or contact Jenny Martin, coordinator, for Families First: A Best Beginnings Partnership, at 435-7101 or via email at jenny.martin@bbbsak.org.

Abbe Hensley is executive director of Best Beginnings. Best Beginnings mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaska children begin school ready to succeed. Best Beginnings receives funding and support from businesses, foundations, nonprofits, government, and individuals.