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With 17,000 babies born in Hillsborough County, less than 50% enter kindergarten ready to learn

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 18:12:01-04

TAMPA, Fla — The first day of school is less than a month away for Hillsborough County and with around 17,000 babies born each year, Champions for Children Tampa Bay reports that less than half of those babies here in the county are set up for success.

Hillsborough County is the 7th largest school district in the country, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Meanwhile Champions for Children reports that less than 50% of babies born in in the county enter kindergarten ready to learn.

“Learning begins at birth because a child's brain is growing rapidly from the time of birth to the age of five. About 80%-90% of your brain volume and structure is forming," Amy Haile, the CEO of Champions for Children, said.

Haile told ABC Action News that trauma plays a major role in a child's ability to learn.

“When a child has early childhood trauma, whether that's child abuse and neglect, or a serious illness, that really disrupts how their brain can respond to the learning environment," Haile added.

Champions for Children places Hillsborough County as the highest in Florida for the most reported and confirmed cases of abuse and neglect.

Haile said it’s important parents realize that the impact of neglect goes beyond childhood and that it can dramatically increase the risk for academic failure and impaired socioemotional development.

She told ABC Action News financial stressors don’t have to get in the way and, creating positive childhood experiences can make a child more likely to succeed in the classroom.

“Poverty does not equal neglect... Any parent can give this million dollar gift to their child through everyday actions of talking, reading and singing with their children... It's not about your two year old having an iPad, because learning from an iPad and having the latest electronic learning tool is still not going to replace a book in their lap and an adult reading to them. Because it really is that social emotional connection with the individual and the talking and reading," Haile explained.

Haile added these behaviors not only promote early learning and literacy but they also promote positive attachment between children and adults.