Help make the community child friendly

Published 10:02 am Friday, June 21, 2013

by Anne W. Bryant

June 21 has more daylight hours than any other day of the year. What will you do today to make your community a better place? Will you help us to become a child friendly community?

Franklin City, Isle of Wight and Southampton Counties each passed a Child Friendly Community resolution last year. Here are the highlights.

A child friendly community envisions:

• Parents, teachers, and community stakeholders working together to make a positive difference in the lives of young children throughout Western Tidewater;

• Various local, regional and state organizations working collaboratively to improve early learning opportunities and promote healthy lifestyles for children;

• Public policies that support early learning for all young children and are crucial to their future success;

• Community and recreational facilities designed to stimulate children’s cognitive and values development, health, and well-being in a variety of ways; and

• Communities that allow children to have the freedom to explore the world around them in physical, emotional, and spiritual safety

Simply put, a child friendly community is one where everyone is working together to make a positive difference in the lives of children in our community. The adoption of the resolution is just the first step.

Why is this important? It’s important to all of us because we all want the same thing – children healthy and ready to learn so they can succeed in school and in life. It’s no surprise that research shows that only about one-third of the factors affecting school success happen at school, while the other two-thirds are at home and in the community.

It’s also important if we are to have a competent workforce, something we often do not have today. Research tells us definitively that most of the core soft skills employers are looking for— work ethic, leadership aptitude, effective communication and teamwork—develop at a very early age, and that it is much more difficult and costly for kids to catch up later on in life. Disadvantaged children can start kindergarten up to 18 months behind and many never catch up. Children who don’t read well by third grade are more than four times as likely to drop out. The majority of fourth and eighth graders are not proficient in both math and reading. Unfortunately, these statistics are no longer shocking.

Forty percent of our workforce will be retiring in the next 10 years and we need to act now. Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater (SBWT) and Franklin-Southampton Area United Way (FSAUW) are taking steps to make our communities child friendly by getting the word out on how businesses, organizations and individuals can be child friendly.

Here are some ways you can be child friendly starting today.

Businesses can:

• Have a child play area stocked with books, toys, games, learning activities.

• Have books that children can take with them (too many children have no books at home).

• Purchase books or other supplies for a school, day care center, etc.

• Implement policies that make it possible for employees to more easily balance family and work.

• Allow employees time off to volunteer at schools, go on field trips, etc.

Individuals can:

• Smile at and speak to children – call them by name if you know them.

• Get to know your neighbors. Learn parents and children’s names.

• Have a neighborhood phone roster/contact list. Know how to contact a child’s parents.

• Recognize children for honor roll, grades improvements, sports and other accomplishments.

Organizations can:

• Have members volunteer to read at schools and daycare centers.

• Sponsor a book drive.

• Sponsor a field trip or other event.

The United Way message is Live United – when you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all. The opportunities are many – choose one today, reach out your hand and get started.

To learn more about preparing our children for success, go to SBWT and FASUW are gathering additional information on being a child friendly community. Send your name and email address to to join our mailing list.

ANN BRYANT is executive director for the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way and can be reacher at