Karen Bradley has been selected as the 2018 Pinal First Things First Champion for Young Children.
The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues.
Over the past year, Bradley engaged in awareness-raising efforts such as:
- Teaching the “Mommy and Me” classes to parents and guardians at the Compassion Care Center in San Tan Valley every Wednesday, reinforcing the FTF website as a resource and utilizing FTF tools, such as the playbooks, Read-On Literacy Guides, Kids Basics and grocery pads as part of the curriculum.
- Reviewing and distributing the FTF Parent Kit to more than 50 soon-to-be parents or guardians in both English and Spanish through the House of Timothy.
- Working with almost two dozen parents to help them understand the importance of early childhood development and health and engaging with their babies before birth, and reading and interacting with them after birth. Bradley covers subjects such as 90 percent of a baby’s brain develops by age 5 and reinforces the importance of reading, playing, and engaging with their infants and toddlers from the start.
- Hosting information tables at church events and homeless groups, engaging parents and providing early childhood information to parents and books/bookmarks to children birth to age 5. She shares FTF materials, such as fact sheets, awareness cards, playbooks, with more than 200 parents and more than 50 children throughout the San Tan Valley and Apache Junction areas.
- Using social media to post early childhood information on both the New Mercies and House of Timothy Facebook pages.
We recently caught up with Bradley, who founded the home-based House of Timothy pregnancy program and has served as a volunteer parent educator for the past five years. She also volunteers with New Mercies Pregnancy Center with Compassion Care Center in San Tan Valley, which provides support to families, starting with pregnancy, through labor and into early childhood.
Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is so important?
Answer: The experiences, both positive and negative, a child has during their first few years create the foundation that the rest of their lives are built upon. Providing optimal experiences through early childhood development, and focusing on their physical and mental well-being, will get children off to the best start possible.
Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?
Answer: Involvement can be as simple as knowing what the needs of children are in the community, what resources are available, then passing those resources on to families. It could also be working together with others to make sure every child has access to free books, quality care and free or low-cost educational experiences.