Virtual film festival raises awareness, discussions about early childhood education

Virtual film festival raises awareness, discussions about early childhood education

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) -The Invest Early Alabama Film Festival kicks off Tuesday. It’s a virtual event showing two films highlighting the importance of education in the first five years of a child’s life and how successful Alabama’s pre-K program has already proven to be.

“The Invest Early Alabama Film Festival is open to the public, it’s free, and if you register at the website, you will get emails with links to access to feature documentary films on the topic of early childhood,” explained Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.

The films “No Small Matter” and “Starting at Zero” will be featured at the film festival.

“They’re incredible, they’re moving, and they lay out the science of why when children have a high-quality early childhood education, they do better in school in life and in the workforce,” Muhlendorf continued.

“We have a great example and the Alabama first-class pre-k program, but that program does not even reach 40 percent of four-year-olds yet,” Muhlendorf says.

They are still working on encouraging the state legislature to continue to increase investments in that program, she adds.

Muhlendorf says the years before school actually starts for a child are just as important to their future, if not more important, than their grade school years.

“The first five years of a child’s life lay the foundation for everything that follows,” she said. “And we want all children to have that firm and steady foundation. When children have that, whether it’s at home or in a quality childcare center or pre-K, they are doing better in school, they’re more likely to read by third grade. And studies have even followed graduates of quality pre k programs into adulthood and found that they were less likely to commit a crime, rely on social welfare programs and that they were more likely to earn more in their careers and have sturdier families than themselves than the children in the study who did not have access to the program.”

The film festival is also hosting a series of, “Lunchtime Conversations.”

”Every Tuesday at noon in January, throughout the festival, just hop on to our Facebook Live page, the Alabama school readiness Alliance. We’ll be hosting experts, practitioners in the field stars from the two films, and state leaders as they talk about themes from the films and talk about why early childhood education is so important for educational and economic outcomes in Alabama,” Muhlendorf said. “It’s also going to look at how the COVID pandemic has affected the early education care and education system in Alabama. We knew that it was fragile and underfunded before COVID. But COVID has laid that bare, and the estimate is that, whether they’re closed or open, that 30 percent of childcare programs could go under without additional federal support. "

Register for The Invest Early Alabama Film Festival at www.investearlyalabama.org.

The festival runs through January 17th.

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