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hen the Dragon Wagon shuttle bus pulls into a Pine City park each week starting this March, children will be transported to a world where storybook characters come to life and preschool-age kids will listen to stories, practice rhyming words and do hands-on activities on anything from dinosaurs to butterflies. The Dragon Wagon is not just Pine City Schools’ newest answer to serving its youngest students. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, it’s also a powerful engine for economic development. A compilation of four longitudinal studies put together by Arthur Rolnick, former senior vice president and director of research for the Federal Reserve, found a 16 percent annual rate of return on investment in high-quality preschool education for disadvantaged kids. That return comes in the form of fewer dollars needed for special education, lower crime rates, higher education levels and, ultimately, a more productive workforce. Those results, Rolnick says, makes it the single best return on investment a community can make in its economic future. How do clapping games and storytelling translate into economic development? Research using brain scanning technologies shows that if infants, preschoolers and toddlers are provided with positive brain-stimulating activities, from learning letters to laughing with a caregiver, they have a better chance of reading well, speaking with fluency and coping with stressful situations—life skills that also serve people in the job market. On the other hand, young children who are exposed to violence, neglect or low levels of interaction are more likely to need intervention or assistance during their lifetimes. In districts such as Pine City, where an estimated 24 percent of kids aren’t participating in preschool programs because of

said. “If we don’t start paying attention to our children, we will have a significant economic decline ahead of us.”

Reaching families Rolnick and those in the early education field see the need for public and private partnerships to move the cause forward. Now a senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Rolnick is currently pushing to build a $1.5 billion endowment to fund preschool scholarships for disadvantaged Minnesota families and prenatal care for teen moms—providing them with a mentor and in-home nurse visits beginning with pre-natal care.

Arthur Rolnick At the same time, early childhood coalitions and programs across central Minnesota are looking for creative ways to reach kids and families by partnering with local business and garnering community support. The Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition supports Fathers Reading Every Day (F.R.E.D.). The program is offered at elementary schools and

Federal Reserve studies found a 16% ROI in high quality preschool education, which cast the issue in a new light. Early childhood equals economic development. financial hardship or a lack of transportation, early childhood education programs can make a long-term difference. “We need a sense of urgency on this as you see more and more kids born into poverty,” Rolnick

fathers are welcome to bring their kids for story time and playtime in the gymnasium. A facilitator reads a book aloud to model reading for the dads and each child leaves with one or two high-quality books. “The 4th Quarter 2012

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IQ Magazine - 4th Quarter 2012  
IQ Magazine - 4th Quarter 2012  

Published by the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, Minnesota, IQ Magazine boils down regional leadership issues to their very essence....

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