During the holidays, we frequently reflect on the value of family and are reminded that our children are our greatest treasure. The greatest gift we can give our children is quality time spent focused on early childhood education, development and awareness.

During the first five years of life, a child’s personality blossoms and is shaped by early childhood experiences. Brain development research highlights the long-term impact of the quality of care a child receives during this time.

Children with high quality early learning experiences are more likely to achieve skills they need to succeed in school, work and life. This data highlights the need for programs and strategies designed to help children start school healthy and ready to learn. More than ever, Virginia policymakers, businesses and community leaders recognize the value of investing in our youth.

I am honored to serve the citizens of Virginia as a member of the Virginia Commission on Youth and excited to report on recent accomplishments of our team in Richmond. The commission is a standing bi-partisan legislative commission of the Virginia General Assembly that, by mandate, provides a legislative forum in which complex issues related to youth and families may be explored and resolved.

In June, the commission hosted the Early Childhood Education Workgroup on Quality bringing together members of the General Assembly, Executive Branch and stakeholders to investigate ways Virginia can invest in high-quality early childhood education.

Working together, we developed a set of recommendations for the General Assembly to consider during the 2015 legislative session. Earlier this month, the commission recommended the creation of an interagency workgroup to develop a competency-based professional development framework for early childhood teachers.

The commission also adopted a recommendation requesting further study on ways to improve access to the Virginia Preschool Initiative, a project to provide state funding for schools and community-based organizations providing quality preschool programs for at-risk 4-year olds unserved by Head Start.

Quality early childhood education for our children is critical to success in school and the future workforce.

We cannot create a safe and productive community without a renewed focus on the next-generation of citizens.

As leaders tackle this important work, take extra time this holiday season to cherish the little ones in your household.

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Charles H. Slemp, III is an attorney representing children in Southwestern Virginia who serves on the Virginia Commission on Youth. 

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