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Partners HealthCare and Thrive in 5 Work Together to Ensure School Readiness

A Special Advertorial Section

Kassmin Williams
Partners HealthCare and Thrive in 5 Work Together to Ensure School Readiness
(l-r) Pictured here playing with their Duplo blocks at Upham’s Corner Library are: K. Ayman, 2-and-a-half-year-old Aydanne Morgan-Grant, volunteer for Thrive in 5 Luci Davis, 3-year-old Marcel Giesham and Amelia Viera.

Children’s earliest life experiences shape the architecture of their brain, which can have a profound impact on their health and well-being throughout their lives. That’s why Partners HealthCare has committed to a partnership with Boston’s Thrive in 5 to ensure that children’s earliest life experiences allow for bright futures.

The beginning years of a child’s life are those during which the brain is most malleable — learned behaviors acquired during this phase are cemented into the brain and help shape future behavioral patterns. Healthy development not only includes cognitive development, but also language, social and emotional and physical development.

“Our partnership with Partners is a major asset in our work, as we are more able to engage the many people that are vital to the healthy development of a child and equip them with the skills and support they need to ensure that child’s success in school and beyond,” said Jane Tewksbury, executive director of Thrive in 5, a public-private partnerships between the City of Boston and United Way of Massachusetts Bay.

Parents are especially essential for the healthy development of children, which is why Thrive in 5 is working to engage parents in communities throughout Boston to offer new and innovative ways to support their children’s development. Thrive in 5 also recognizes parents as key players in creating a sustainable model; children’s continued development is dependent on parental involvement.

Using early childhood screening data, Thrive in 5, community partners and parents are planning and developing activities and events for families that build children’s skills in developmental areas where screening data show children are not on track. In 2009, only 54 percent of Boston’s children entered kindergarten ready. Even though kindergarten readiness rates have increased to 59 percent, knowing how children are doing long before they enter kindergarten helps Thrive in 5 and others in the field to intervene and get kids on track early.

Thrive in 5 uses the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, which allows both providers and parents to identify where children show delays and then tailor programs and activities to better meet a child’s needs — be it in the area of fine motor skill development, basic problem solving skills or social-emotional health.

“Screening helps parents understand what development looks like,” said Katie Britton, director of resource development and communications for Thrive in 5. “It shows them how their kids are doing and what they can do in their home and in their community to support their children’s development.”

By arming parents with more information about how their children are doing, parents are better able to incorporate learning activities into their children’s daily lives to ensure healthy development. “These tools really do show you where your kids are doing well and where they need help. This is causing a big impact in our community,” said parent Samilla Quiroa. “It’s a great tool and we are lucky to have access. It’s been done with my own children. It works.”

Through Thrive in 5’s community networks, parents are also able to bring their children to neighborhood events and activities where both parents and children can learn about and practice new developmental skills together. Many of these community events are designed and led by parents themselves, like the Read! Build! Play! series at the Fields Corner Public Library. At each weekly session, children and parents have the opportunity to play together with blocks in any way they like, supporting children’s fine motor and problem solving skill development. “Early childhood development is essential for a full and healthy childhood, adolescence and adult life. Thrive in 5 is a great model for ensuring healthy development for the children in the communities we serve and aligns with Partners overarching goal of prevention,” said Matt Fishman, Partners vice president for community health. “A healthier child means a healthier and more successful adult, which serves families and the whole community. It is terrific to partner with Thrive in 5 on this essential work.”