Last month, we traveled together to the Central Primary School in Whitley, Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in America.
We visited with and read to a group of preschoolers, who participate in Save the Children's innovative Early Childhood Education program, a public-private partnership that brings reading mentors and other learning experts into the classroom to fortify the great work of understaffed and underfunded schools.
We saw firsthand how a little bit of help and extra attention can make a big difference toward enriching children at a crucial point in their development.
These kids were engaged, happy and eager to learn. In short, they were just like all other kids.
Unfortunately, poverty is one of the biggest roadblocks to the kind of opportunity we want these and all kids to have.A few statistics tell the story in its starkest terms:
- One in six children in America live in poverty.
- About 13 million American children go hungry and are forced to skip meals because there's not enough food in their homes.
- Children in families headed by professionals hear about eleven million words a year. Kids living in poverty hear just three million words.
Many Americans may be sympathetic to this problem yet complacent about it at the same time. After all, poverty in America isn't a 21st century challenge like global warming or homeland security. Poverty has been with America as long as the Declaration of Independence.
Simply because a problem is chronic doesn't mean it has to stay that way. That, to us, is in part what our new president is trying to inspire us toward.
In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke so eloquently about an era of responsibility in a nation, not of factions, but of one people, united for a better future for the country we all love.
That simple notion of togetherness and shared responsibility shouldn't be directed just at adults but at kids, too.
We are working to find new ways to engage kids in helping other kids but, even more extraordinary, would be for kids to engage adults -- our leaders in government and in our communities -- to begin a new age of opportunity for all kids to get an equal start in life.
At a time of great uncertainty, we often wonder what the next generation will look like. We don't have to wait 25 years for the answer. The answer is around our kitchen tables, in our classrooms and on our playgrounds.
For the past two years, we've spearheaded a Valentine"s Day project that lets kids and parents purchase or download Valentines Day cards, designed by seven beloved children's artists, that support Save the Children's efforts to help kids in rural America.
This is just one small step toward beginning conversations, educating Americans and getting kids to help kids so that all young people have an equal opportunity for a bright future.
We hope more and more Americans will join us in taking those small steps that lead us to the place we all know is achievable.