The Moody Early Childhood Center is celebrating its first anniversary. If you do one civic-minded deed today, take the time to learn something about this innovative school. It deserves public support.

Every community needs people who can think critically and make good decisions about whatever challenges the future brings. We will always need some good adults in the room, but good adults start with good children.

One problem we have in educating children is that we wait too late to start.

The human brain develops rapidly in the first three years. Just consider how a child learns language. Children who are around educated parents hear millions of words by the time they start school. Unfortunately, children whose parents are working two or three jobs to make ends meet don’t have that advantage. When these kids start school, they’re already behind.

One of the best indicators of whether a student will graduate high school on time is that student’s ability to read at grade level by the third grade. One of the best indicators of whether a student will be able to read at grade level by third grade is whether that child enters kindergarten prepared to learn.

Community leaders who understood that connection opened the Moody Early Childhood Center a year ago. At least 60 percent of the students are on scholarship or are eligible for federal child care subsidies.

The center is a partnership that involves the public school district and philanthropic organizations. The Galveston Independent School District decided to offer full-day prekindergarten, although the state funds only half a day. But community leaders realized that education for infants and toddlers was needed to prepare them for pre-K. Those costs are covered by philanthropic organizations.

The Moody Early Childhood Center has 155 students enrolled in pre-K for 3-year-olds. Those kids go on to pre-K for 4-year-olds at the district’s elementary campuses. The Early Childhood Center also has 103 infants and toddlers enrolled.

To get an intuitive grasp of why this makes a difference, consider the story of a little girl who arrived at the Early Childhood Center at age two and a-half. She couldn’t walk or talk. Kids who were a year younger were running around her, talking up a storm. This little girl was behind.

This story has a happy ending. The little girl got the individual attention she needed. A year later, she is walking and talking in complete sentences. She hasn’t completely caught up with her peers, but she’s close.

The Moody Early Childhood Center might not change the world, but it changed the life of that little girl.

And isn’t that what we need in a community that aspires to be great? If we lived in an aristocracy, we’d only need a few educated, influential citizens. But in a democracy, we need not just a few, but many. And not just many but, ideally, all.

• Heber Taylor

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