Woodward, Okla. —
LOTS OF LOCAL SUPPORT FOR EARLY DEVELOPMENT
All around Woodward there are examples of how local businesses and organizations are investing in young children.
Benbrook spoke about how his bank became involved with the "Adopt A School" program around 15 years ago and decided to partner with the Early Childhood Center (ECC) to help provide support and resources for the school.
"The reason we picked the Early Childhood Center to adopt is because that's where the focus needs to be, at the beginning," he said.
The Stock Exchange Bank's relationship with the ECC "continues to this day," with Benbrook and his employees making contributions, both financially and with their time, to help the school.
Most recently, he said that "on the last day of school this year we went around and gave goodie bags to all of the teachers and just said 'thank you for all you do.' It's not much but we feel it is a way to let them know that we know the important role they play in the development of our young people."
According to school board member Merklin, the teachers in turn also do their part to support and encourage early development, even beyond the "atmosphere of learning" they provide each school day.
"For 20 years," she said, "Woodward teachers have sponsored 'Books for Babies,' which is a program where every child that is born in the Woodward hospital is sent home with a bag of books. It's a way to tell new parents that we believe early learning is important and encourage them to support that by reading to their babies."
Merklin said it is easy to see Woodward Public School District's commitment to early education through its facilities and programs.
In addition to the Early Childhood Center itself, she said "we host a Head Start and Boomer day care programs because we recognize the value of offering opportunities to early learners."
And because those facilities, especially the new ECC building, would not be possible without support from the community, she said they are also a symbol of the community's investment in early development.
By passing the bond issue 6 years ago to pay for the ECC building, Merklin said "the community said, 'we too believe that early childhood development in the first 5 years is important.'"
As the assistant city manager, Haines said that the city also has its share of facilities that seek to offer development opportunities for some of the city's youngest residents. He said this includes everything from Kid's Inc. programs that help teach teamwork to the city's park system which provide "a safe haven for children and families to go enjoy themselves."
However, Haines said "perhaps one of the strongest areas" where the city shows its support for early development is the Woodward Public Library. He said this is evident through the children's programming that the library offers, such as "lapsit" reading programs.
"Lapsits are for infants," he said. "Their parents bring them in and stay with them and interact with them, reading to them and helping them work on motor skills. It also helps acclimate the child to new interactions, bringing them out of their home environment and developing their social skills."
The library also offers "story time" for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, Haines said, which allows them to "continue to develop those social skills and other skills," as the child learns to sit still, pay attention and listen as a library staff member reads them a story.