First Things First program gets Native infants off to developmental head start

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The concept is really simple. The least expensive problem to fix is the one you prevent in the first place.

National policy makers, local educators and most importantly, reservation tribal health professionals are beginning to understand that investment in Arizona's future children is the best investment we can make in our country's intellectual infrastructure.

"First Things First" was established by Arizona voters to give children under age 5, the best possible opportunity to grow up successfully by providing early health screenings and updates, early childhood development education for parents, and for the Navajo Nation, "specialized Navajo Nation parent kits" that contain free, healthy, educational ideas and gift items that can help stimulate brain and social growth, showing parents and child-care providers how to assist their children to be the most productive, confident, successful adults.

With 90 cents of every dollar going towards use at each local level serving children through its 31 regional oversight councils, the program is looking for volunteers to train so they can help with outreach education and professional development.

Tanya Keith, the Community Outreach Liaison for the Navajo Nation, was able to share her reservation-wide program, showing how First Things First can assist parents or care providers with their children to provide the best possible learning and growing environment at home.

Three of the Navajo Nation's area hospitals: Tuba City Regional Health Care, Chinle Hospital and Ft. Defiance Hospital are all primary project points for the Navajo Nation FTF project.

Keith says "I'm willing to come to schools, community centers, chapter houses to be able to share my information about the Navajo Nation FTF program and how you can provide this optimum early development opportunity to help your child succeed."

National statistics are staggering when it comes to successful parenting.

About 20 percent of all American workers are functionally illiterate. The Navajo Nation FTF program is looking to increase reading skills for young children to help them become job ready, educationally progressive, and team capable.

Statistics also show that students who have trouble reading at kindergarten will still have trouble reading at the fourth grade level. FTF is hoping to show parents how to build reading and comprehension skills in their children, making them more confident and willing to take on new educational challenges, leading to more successful students and more creative life career choices.

Utilizing brain science research, FTF understands that brains develop best when there is stimulating environmental and cultural living situations.

Keith's program is exclusively Navajo in orientation and scope. The special "parent kit" that can be obtained through the three local Navajo Nation hospitals contains two CDs with Navajo baby lullabies, clothing articles that show how to position your baby for its safest, healthiest sleep and awake time, CDs on reading programs with a special book on "counting" and pamphlets on healthy ways to interact with your child every single day to stimulate their senses and learning skills.

For more information, contact Keith at

tkeith@azftf@gov or call her at (928) 810-4306.

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