When the little ones in our life – our children, neighbors, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews  – enter kindergarten, we all want them to walk through the doors of their elementary school fully equipped to be successful in their new classroom, and in their lives. The path to “readiness” for our little ones is a combination of several factors, and when our entire community prioritizes these for every baby, we’re all better off.

Children are more likely to be ready for success in school when those with special needs – developmental, physical, social and emotional, or anything else – are identified early and interventions are put in place to ensure their peak achievement. All babies need to have their basic physical, nutritional, and health requirements met so they can grow and develop. They are natural learners, curious and inquisitive about the shiny new world around them, and they need access to high quality opportunities to explore and learn. And their families need support, too! They are the ones ensuring a safe, stable environment for babies to develop their minds and bodies to grow into the best versions of their grown-up selves.

My own niece Rose is only six months old right now, but her parents and our entire family are already hard at work making sure she is thriving by five – and well beyond. The serious fun of being ready for kindergarten begins well before that first day of school, and involves helping our little ones and their families in any way we can. I know the conversations we have with Rose now, the stories we share and songs we sing every day, are laying the foundation for her to enter her formal schooling with confidence.

Navigating all the complicated steps to raising a child can be confusing and tricky for all of us, whether we’re trying to figure out why they won’t stop crying, or wondering if we’re buying enough diapers (so many diapers!), trying to schedule a new parent back at work, or balancing our business needs with a staff member’s increasing parental duties. There is a role for every one of us in a community to play in the lives of the children around us, and it benefits every single one of us, no matter how close or far children are from our daily lives, to ensure that our littlest neighbors are off to a strong start.

Thrive By Five seeks to bring all of us together. Our aim is to build a community that wraps around every baby and ensures their building blocks to success are firmly in place as soon as we can. We want Pinellas County to be famous for our love and support of young children and their families, from Maximo Park to the Lealman Family Center to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Our schools are counting on us, our businesses are supporting us, and our future is calling. Please contribute however you can. And please please know that you’re not alone! 

Kate Bauer-Jones
Director, Thrive By Five Pinellas