The Boston Basics Campaign is inspired by the fact that 80 percent of brain growth happens in the first three years of life. During this period, skill gaps between socio-economic, racial, and ethnic groups become clearly apparent.
However, this does not need to be.
Everyday interactions between children, their parents, and other caregivers provide abundant opportunities to give children from every background a more equal start in life.
During a recent Zoom meeting, East Boston Social Centers highlighted their involvement with the Boston Basic Campaign.
“Before I arrived, the Social Centers were already working with the Basics and it was still a very young initiative at the time,” said EBSC Executive Director Justin Pasquariello. “Michele D’Ambrosio, Gloria Devine, and Parent Partners have been participating in the Boston Opportunity Agenda’s work.”
The Boston Opportunity Agenda had been working with parents and more than 200 representatives from early education centers, family day-care centers and nonprofit organizations like the Social Centers to create a citywide plan for children from birth to age eight.
Boston Opportunity Agenda identified large community-wide endeavors that can be leveraged to help its goals and mission.
One is the Boston Basics Campaign, which educates parents of infants in five codified behaviors, or basics, in interacting with infants that boost their children’s language abilities, reasoning and confidence—starting from birth.
“Michele had integrated them into education for all her staff in our early education programs–and other East Boston early learning centers had done the same,” said Pasquariello. Pasquariello said he knew Mari Barrera, who was the Boston Basics’ Executive Director until recently, from other work.
“Mari and I wanted to work together more,” said Pasquariello. “At the same time, East Boston was a community where the Boston Basics wanted to go deeper, and the Social Centers was a good partner for that.”
Over the years Boston Basics presented at Family Engagement Network meetings led by the Social Center’s Gloria Devine and was integrated in Families First Parenting Program training.
“They partnered with us to think about how to expand their reach, including having billboards throughout the neighborhood,” said Pasquariello. “We have been exploring partnering on grants to expand our reach for some time–always with a focus on this vision of making East Boston one of the first places anywhere where all children enter Kindergarten thriving, joyful and ready to learn. We don’t know of anywhere that has achieved that goal yet–though other places also are trying to ensure everyone is ready for kindergarten.”
Pasquariello said the Social Centers has come to see the Boston Basics as a key part of that effort, because they can help all families improve outcomes for all children.
“Sharing the Boston Basics is a relatively low cost intervention relative to many others,” said Pasquariello. “For as little as perhaps $200/ child, we can ensure all children ages 0-3 have multiple exposures to these Basics. We can’t figure out how to do this alone and can’t effectively reach all children alone. That is why we are working through the Family Engagement Network, and with other leading East Boston organizations, to develop a plan to change the culture for parents of young children–so “doing the Basics” with infants and young children becomes the norm in East Boston.”
Pasquariello said Right now, perhaps half of children in Eastie are entering kindergarten ready to learn. “Kindergarten readiness is associated with a variety of lifelong outcomes, including educational attainment, health, and lifetime earnings,” said Pasquariello. “We can ensure all children in East Boston enter Kindergarten thriving, joyful, and ready to learn. When all the people who interact with our youngest children–parents, nurses and doctors, early education teachers, business and church leaders, and others–know the Basics, we will have taken a huge and important step toward this vision.”