Sunlight streams through the windows of a North Side child care center in Spokane. It shines on colorful chairs and tables, rows of shelves full of toys, books, art materials and plenty of spaces for children to play, create and learn about their world.
Outside, a playground has places to swing, run, climb and dig.
Any child would love to be in this place. However, there are no children here. After being in business 15 years, the center has closed. I served as director for the first 13 years and I feel a sadness that will not go away.
Memories of children come flooding back. Preschoolers developed friendships, learned to share, discovered rules about safety and health, and investigated the world of books, music and creativity in a nurturing atmosphere.
Kindergartners trudged off to “big school” and then came back to spend the rest of their day in a caring environment. School-age children burst in the door at 3:15, full of energy and enthusiasm for fun experiences to balance out their school days. I also remember children with disabilities and how staff teamed with parents, social agencies, medical personnel and the school district to provide the most appropriate education.
More memories are of teachers - professional, nurturing, deeply committed and poorly paid. They provided learning experiences, modeled values, wiped tears, bandaged skinned knees, conferenced with parents and cleaned bathrooms. Finally, I remember the parents and friendships that grew out of the common goal of providing what was best for their children. Sometimes, we cried together. Often, we laughed at some prized bit of wisdom from their child.
My story does not end here. This center is one of six local child care centers that has closed in the past six months. Several home day cares have gone out of business as well, leaving parents scurrying to find affordable, quality care. And the children must say goodbye to friends and teachers with whom they have bonded.
Our community of institutions, agencies, businesses and government needs to be reminded again and again that the need for quality, affordable child care and early education is one that must be addressed by everyone.
Commitment to build and maintain strong programs in the early years can assure children success in school and their future. It really does take a village to raise a child.
MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.
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