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CORINTH – Corinth and Alcorn County have joined other Northeast Mississippi communities addressing their prekindergarten children’s needs.

The vehicle they’re using is Excel by 5, a program to support child development to age 5 developed through a collaboration of the Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute and Chevron.

They have begun the process to seek certification as an Excel by 5 community, a designation that recognizes the community as “child-friendly.”

“What we want to do is teach the community how to be a resource to moms with young children,” said Bobby Capps, a task force member with Commission on the Future of Alcorn County, which is spearheading the project. “We have to provide some ways for those moms to access the resources.”

To achieve the designation the community must meet criteria in four areas – community involvement, family and parent support, early care and education, and health and safety. Certification is valid for three years, after which a community must go through a recertification process.

The first is to find out from the parents of young children what service gaps exist in the community.

The task force has distributed a survey asking some of those mothers about the challenges they face, what services they use, whether they have child care and where.

“Essentially we’re trying to assess from the parent’s perspective whether our community is doing a good job supporting them in parenting 0-5,” Capps said. “Perhaps we can identify gaps where we can do better.”

Creating a mobile learning center is central to how task force members believe they can reach and teach the parents, predominantly mothers.

Taking the mobile learning center into the communities where the consumers live will assure they are not hampered by lack of access.

Touch. Talk. Play. Read. Those are the four things to concentrate on with children up to age 4, based on brain development research. The mobile learning center will include a playroom on one side and a library on the other. Parents will be shown an age-appropriate toy and told how it develops the child’s brain. They’ll also be given a book that provides proper brain stimulation. 

Providing parents with training, connecting them to resources and giving them the right tools are key. “We’re trying to teach moms that brain development is a big deal,” Capps said.