Boise, ID. – This week, Idahoans and people across the country are celebrating the Week of the Young Child. Hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the week highlights the importance of early education opportunities.

Hailey Michalk coordinates Idaho AEYC’s READY! for Kindergarten program, which provides resources to parents and caregivers so that kids can be prepared on their first day of school. She says kids enter kindergarten with a range of abilities.

“The really easy way to narrow this learning gap is just by having conversations with your child and encouraging them to talk and tell you stories, and just using language lots and getting them really familiar and comfortable with having conversations,” she explains. “It builds their vocabulary and it opens up basically their whole world to school.”

Michalk says access to the right resources is a big barrier for many families. Idaho is one of six states that doesn’t invest in preschool programs. Each day of the Week of the Young Child features a different theme, from Music Monday to Family Friday.

On Saturday, the Idaho AEYC holds a celebration at the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise.

Event director for the garden Adan David Callsen says they’re encouraging people to explore the space and want to inspire a love for the outdoors as they check out possibilities for after-school and summer programs.

“It’s just a great way for individuals and families to be involved in the community and find something that hopefully inspires them, whether it’s an after-school sport or something in science, art, music,” he says. “It’s just really great to inspire people at a young age.”

Callsen says the garden provides nature camps and school tours over the summer for kids. The Saturday event is from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. and admission is free. It will feature activities for children and resources for parents. The Botanical Garden will also have Earth Day-related projects going on during the celebration.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service