Celebrating The New Three Key Years Website for Helping Kids
February 15, 2017
We have just done some work at the Institute for InterGroup Understanding we believe could actually help change the lives of large numbers of children for the better.
We have just built and offered the world a new, easy to use Three Key Years website, which focuses entirely on helping parents and families from all groups build better lives for children by doing the right things for each child in the first months and first years of life.
Wonderful new medical science now teaches us that those first years are absolutely critical for the life-long functioning of each child, and the unfortunate reality is that very few parents know how important those years are for their children.
So the Institute is doing several very specific things to help parents understand what those opportunities and processes are.
A very direct focus by the Institute on very young children and on the first years of their lives started with a grim reality. We wanted to help build intergroup Peace for our country, and we could see achieving intergroup Peace was going to be difficult if we keep putting so many minority Americans in prison.
It is clear that if we really want to create and maintain intergroup Peace in America, we need to stop sending so many minority Americans to prison. When you look at the processes that end up putting people in jail, it becomes clear that the road to success toward fewer incarcerations stretches back very directly to the first years of life for each of our children.
When you look at the situation we face today, it is clear we imprison more people than any country on the planet, and we disproportionately imprison minority Americans.
We actually have more black American males in jail today than the total number of Black males who were enslaved at the beginning of the Civil War.
When we look explicitly at exactly who is in jail, the facts about our prison population are clear and painful. We disproportionately imprison people who drop out of high school. We imprison far more high school dropouts than high school graduates from every racial and every ethnic group.
African American males in their 30s who dropped out of school have almost an 80 percent chance of going to jail. Sixty percent of the African American males who have dropped out of high school are actually in jail today.
That 60 percent compares to roughly 5 percent of male African American high school graduates in jail.
That 5 percent is also a horrible number. We imprison less than 1 percent of White Americans, and it is clear that 5 percent is a much higher number than 1 percent.
The much higher 5 percent imprisonment rate is clearly the result of a number of basic intergroup issues we need to address as a nation — issues that are directly addressed in all four of the InterGroup Institute intergroup Peace books.
But — we need to understand and work with the reality that 5 percent of the people in jail is not as horrible as 60 percent of the people in jail. Sixty percent is a crippling number, and many lives are ruined because far too many people are spending their lives in prison and jails.
It is also clear — if we look at our incarceration levels from a data based process perspective — we will have fewer people in jail once we have fewer people dropping out of school.
Reduce the Number of Dropouts
When you boil that issue down to its essence, it is clear we should be reducing the number of dropouts, so we can reduce the number of people in our prisons and our jails.
That can be done. We know what we need to do to reduce the number of children who drop out of high school.
We now know — from the new developmental science — that the way of keeping children from dropping out of schools is to help children build strong brains in the first months and years of life, when the most important levels of neuron connectivity happen in the brain of each child.
We actually now know what children need in those first months and years of life in order to graduate from school. We know neurons connect in each child’s brain in those first months and years — and we know the brain of each child goes through very different processes after that initial brain growth opportunity is gone.
We know it is extremely difficult to change those life paths for any children in those key areas at 15 years — and we now know it is much easier and more effective to change the life paths for the first 15 months for each child.
The reality we need to address today is that we actually know with extreme accuracy by age three which children will drop out of high school. There is wonderful new brain science we now know about the developmental process for every child that lets us project forward from age three to tell us which children will be going down what educational path.
That very important science tells us the first three years of life are stunningly important for the development of each child from every group.
We know those first years are the times when billions of neurons connect in the brain of each child whose brain is exercised in those years. We know what happens when billions of neurons connect, and we know what happens for children who do not get the interactions and the exercise that connect the neurons in their brains in those first months and years.
We know from multiple studies that the children who have fallen behind by age four almost never catch up. We know that the children who do not catch up after age three make up more than 70 percent of the people from all groups who are in jail.
That new knowledge about the impact of those first years gives us a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of all of our children. We need to help every child — and we need to change those first three years for millions of children who will not get the support they need in those first years, if we do not very intentionally make it happen.
Brilliant, beautiful, and wonderful new developmental science from several extremely credible, highly skilled, and deeply dedicated academic settings have taught us the brains of children develop their neuron connections in the first three years of life — and they tell us the biological functionality reasons why the process has gone past its most powerful opportunities for our children by age four.
As you can see on the available reports and the various videos available from the Harvard Center for The Developing Child and the University of Washington Center for Child Brain Development, the first three months are epigenetically important for each child, and the first three years are developmentally crucial for each child. Those resources from Harvard, Columbia, The University of Washington, Stanford, Berkeley, The First Five Commission, and The Mayo Clinic all have useful and user friendly pieces that are available to mothers and fathers on the new Three Key Years website.
As a society and as a care system we have done a horrible job of teaching that wonderful science and those extremely positive opportunities to mothers and fathers and families of newborn children in this country.
Too many people from both low-income and wealthy homes do not know they can make a huge difference in the life and brain structure of their child by just talking directly to their child in those first months and years.
Reading to children in those time frames also has massive benefits for children.
Scientists in really important settings clearly know that information — but we have done a truly horrible job of teaching it to parents and families.
Communities of all kinds, who all want their children to succeed, also all need to understand both those opportunities and those processes.
The book Three Key Years was written two years ago and distributed through Amazon at low cost, and electronically at no cost, by The Institute to teach that information to parents, families, communities, educators, policy makers, and caregivers.
The book Three Key Years is available as a free download on this website. It is a useful book. Books, however, have limited utility and effectiveness, and fairly limited use in today’s society. Writing Three Key Years was well intended, but simply creating that book was clearly not sufficient to teach this information to everyone who needs to know it, and the print version is obviously not an optimal, or even useful, tool for too many parents and families.
As we looked at the challenges and opportunities for helping children, it became obvious that we needed a really good tool to teach this information directly to parents and families. The new Three Key Years website is intended to offer that tool. The Internet gives us a great distribution mechanism for relaying teaching tools on those issues to parents and families.
So the Institute is, beginning today, making the Three Key Years website available as a teaching tool for parents and families to do exactly that.
The website owns the name threekeyyears.org. Share the website and the electronic copies of the Three Key Years book with anyone who needs this information.
Anyone can use the website and the information. It is entirely free.
The Three Key Years website was created with input from some important experts to help new mothers and new fathers have important tools and information they need to personally help with the very best support for both brain development and emotional development for their children.
The website has created easy links to Harvard, Mayo, Zero to Three, Columbia, The First Five Commission, and multiple other highly useful sources to also make their information available in easy ways to parents and families.
Studies have shown that very few parents are aware of how extremely important the first months and the very first years are for the development of their children, and almost no parents know they have access to the tools made available through this website.
On an issue like breastfeeding — where the science shows excellent nutrition levels, and nurturing connections are extremely important for both mothers and babies. the website explains the process and the website makes links available for mothers to coaches, advocates, and relevant science.
The goal is universal knowledge about that entire range of key developmental issues. We need all parents, all families, and all communities to understand and know that the issues and the developmental opportunities that exist for each child are biological — and they are the same for children from every economic, ethnic, racial, and cultural group.
It is stunningly clear that we can make a huge difference in the lives of children from every group if we help every child in the first weeks, months, and years of life.
We need to teach all parents how things that can have a huge positive impact on each child are basic and simple. This is not a complicated or complex process. Basic interactions do magical things for child development.
Talking is a key and extremely effective tool far too many parents do not think of as a brain-building tool. We need to talk to children from the time they are born, because talking to children excites and exercises their brains, and talking directly to a child actually creates billions of neuron connections in the brain of each child.
Talking has huge value most parents do not fully understand. Talking to a child from birth has the power to change the life for each child. We have done a horrible, and almost criminal, job as a society in not teaching that very basic information about the direct value and benefits of talking directly to children to every parent of every new child.
All parents love their children. All parents want their children to succeed. All parents want their children to prosper and thrive, and all parents want their children to learn.
We now know from wonderful new science that parents can help their children do well by simply talking to them in direct, soft, and loving ways from the very first days and weeks of life.
Some people believe education begins at kindergarten. Those people who believe education begins at kindergarten are absolutely, clearly, dysfunctionally, and even dangerously wrong.
Education for each child begins at birth — and parents (or other immediate caregivers) — are the first teachers for each child.
Parents are the core of the teaching process, and parents are the core of the immediate education reality for each child.
We need to help parents perform that job of being the first teacher for their child.
Parents can’t do the very best job as teachers for their child if we don’t very clearly and effectively teach every parent that their child will build a stronger brain, and that their child is more likely to be happy and healthy as well, when parents simply talk directly, extensively, and in loving ways to their children in those first weeks, months, and years of life.
Talking is not just a way to pass time or a fun thing to do with a child. Talking actually causes neurons to connect in the brain of a child, and children love it when parents and other loving adults talk directly to them, and their neurons connect.
Children love to build strong brains. Children love all of the interactions with loving adults, which build strong brains.
We need to teach that information about how talking strengthens brains to every family and to every parent, so that it can make a difference in the life of every child.
We also need parents to read to their children at a very early age. Children love books and reading, and children love it when adults they trust read books to them.
Book reading in those key years also builds stronger brains. Reading teaches children the connections between pictures and symbols, and it teaches them the meaning of written words.
More than half of the families in the U.S. whose children face major learning gaps in high school did not have a single book in their home in those first months and years of life.
Those children with no books — and with few words spoken directly to them — fall behind the other children in our communities by age three. Several important studies have shown that to be true. We know from the learning gaps we see in too many schools that the children who fall behind by age three tend to never catch up.
We need to help all children before those gaps start. We need to teach the value of reading to children, and the value of talking to children to every parent — even before each child is born — and we need to make books available to every child in every setting.
Any programs that get books to the children in those years are good programs to support. Do what you can to get books to children. Anyone who cares about children should think about ways of getting books to families that do not have them.
For families where the parents can’t read themselves, we need other people from the family or community to read to the children. Also — and this is very important — it is great for the child when any parents who can’t read still use books as a tool for telling stories to their child about the information inside.
That story telling process from a non-reader, with a book in hand, is far better for a child than no books at all — and it can also be a very positive experience for the parent of that child.
Every language works to strengthen brains. All languages work to strengthen brains. Multiple languages spoken to a child can make their brain stronger and even more capable.
Too many families who do not speak English as a first language use only some English words, and some choose to not speak the family language at all to a child. Actually, speaking multiple languages is an excellent tool, and it strengthens the brain of the child. We now know you can help each child by speaking to them in every available language, and by giving the child strong multi-language learning experiences.
Children are all geniuses when learning languages in those very first years of life — so using that genius with two or more languages spoken to a child is great, and it is even better when the children hear many words from all languages in those first years of life. Countless words should be spoken to each child.
We also need all parents to know it is paramount for them to count with their child.
Numbers and counting also build strong brains.
Teaching basic numbers to a child builds that part of a child’s brain in important ways.
Parents should count everything with their children from those very first years.
“How many apples is in that basket” is a wonderful question to ask a child, which builds brain connections and creates learning levels about numbers for each child.
We could close the learning gaps about numbers that exist in too many of our schools if all parents taught their children to count, to recognize numbers, and to do some very simple adding and subtracting well before age three.
We need to do that all in the very first years of life. The first three years are golden. The brain of each child actually goes through a pruning process at age four that determines future capability levels for each child. Pruning happens on a natural cycle. The lovely Harvard Center for the Developing Child animation video linked to the video section of this website explains that development and pruning process in some detail.
We need to teach every parent and every family all of the wonderful things that can be done in the first months and first years for each child.
This website teaches those processes. It also strongly encourages breastfeeding for each child because breastfeeding has the perfect nutritional levels for each child. Breastfeeding also creates emotional security and builds emotional connections and bonding opportunities that are special, and have very positive impacts for both mothers and children.
We should encourage and support mothers in that process.
There are links to breastfeeding coaches and advisors from this website.
The best new science is teaching us that the first 100 days of life have some newly discovered epigenetic processes that can be enhanced for each child by being breastfed for those weeks and months. Even a couple of months of breastfeeding are very powerful for helping a child get a good start.
The goal of the new InterGroup children’s website is to help children in very direct ways, and to begin helping children today. Every encounter with a child that is enhanced because of this website is wonderful, and can clearly have a positive impact on the life of that child.
The website is meant to be a useful tool that will help children from every group get the best start in life.
The goal of the website and the books are to make it easy for parents, families, and even communities to do the right things for their children.
This website is actually anchored on the book, Three Key Years, which was also produced by the Institute for InterGroup Understanding.
Three Key Years is available for about $10 through Amazon, and it can also be read or downloaded free of charge on the InterGroup website.
Three Key Years is, all by itself, a basic, direct, and useful book. Some people still prefer to learn from books — and it is an easy way of giving people key information about that topic and science. Give the book as a gift to new parents, or to the grandparents of new children if you want the new families to have happier, healthier, and smarter children.
The Institute for InterGroup Understanding actually created both the book and the website because the Institute is working directly on issues of racism, prejudice, discrimination, bias, and intergroup anger, distrust, and conflict for us as a country — and it became very clear, early in the process, that we will functionally have a difficult time creating and maintaining intergroup Peace and intergroup trust if we keep putting so many minority Americans in jail.
The information mentioned above is extremely important to know. We have multiple reasons to help children at that age — and reducing the number of people sent to prison is high on that list Children who fall behind by age three are much more likely to drop out of school, and those children are much more likely to go to jail.
Sad and Grim Truth
That is a sad and grim truth — and the data about those linkages is both clear and uncontestable.
The four other InterGroup books that deal with discrimination, racism, dangerous instinctive intergroup behaviors, and our national history of intergroup anger and damage all describe the situation we are in as a result of those centuries of discriminatory intergroup behaviors.
We can not remedy all of those discriminatory levels of damage, but one aspect of that situation we can both understand and work to change, is that a minority American male who drops out of high school is actually more than 60 times more likely to be sent to jail in his 30s, compared to our national average rate of incarceration.
Chapter Eleven of The Art of InterGroup Peace — also available to read or download for free on the InterGroup website — deals directly with the link between the need to help all children from all groups in those first key years of life as part of the pathway we need to follow to get to intergroup Peace in America.
Chapter Eleven of The Art of InterGroup Peace also deals with key public health opportunities and the need for trusted police forces in our communities as part of our agenda for collective change.
We are blessed, today, with an explosion of wonderful new science about child development, which points us directly and clearly to those first months and years for each child as the time to have a huge, positive, lifetime impact on each child.
The new InterGroup children’s website has easy linkages to some of that wonderful new science and to those wonderful experts and their teams.
We do not need all parents to be neuroscientists or developmental psychologists — but we do need all parents to harvest the wonderful fruit of that beautiful new science, and we need all parents to have the direct interactions with their children that will give and support the best life trajectories for their child.
That work was worth creating a website to do.
We want to help children. It is a wonderful thing to change the life for a child.
Every child we save is — at a very personal level for that child—a life we save.
Saving a child is a wonderful thing.
Please — make saving a child your personal priority.
Pass this website on to the right person and you, personally, will change the life trajectory in a wonderful way for a child.
We really need to help our children. Children are being born right now as you read this sentence. Those children will have life paths that are determined by the people who are in their direct world, and who will give them the experiences that will structure their lives.
Let’s use this information in smart ways to help every child by helping parents and families learn key and basic information about what they can do to make lives better for their children.
Please share the website with people who can use it — and welcome to the new movement to give all of our children better lives by giving all children the best start we can give them in each of those important areas of their lives in the first three years of life.
We need to focus on those years — and we need to make a difference for children in those time frames.
We should be ashamed of ourselves if we know this information, and refuse or fail to use it to help our children have better lives.