As the governor’s race heats up in California, early learning is taking center stage. From candidate forums to debates, candidates on both sides of the aisle want to ensure the state’s youngest learners are prepared for the future.

“This is the first time that babies, toddlers, preschoolers are being talked about by the leading candidates for governor and it’s really, really exciting,” said Avo Makdessian, director of the Center for Early Learning at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in a recent interview with KPCC-FM.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, along with a 100 other organizations have formed the Chose Children 2018 initiative to educate candidates on the importance of the first five years of life.

Brains are built and grow through touch, talk, sight and sound in early childhood experiences. This experiential learning starts long before a child steps foot into kindergarten and is strengthened through regular interaction and stimulation in the home and in quality early learning settings.

During the first five years, a child’s brain is at its most flexible, making this a critical period for learning and growth. Science tells us that children who face adversity in the first years of life, especially those in low-income households, are more at risk for experiencing damage to their brain architecture, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. Prevention through high-quality early learning and care provide the support children need to build a foundation for a healthy and productive future.

Voters also believe now is the time to make critical investments in the first years of life. A recent statewide poll found that nearly 9 in 10 voters want California’s next governor to support greater investments in early childhood education. These findings are in keeping with the results of FFYF’s latest national poll, which shows 79% of American voters want Congress and the administration to work together to improve the quality of child care and preschool, and make it more affordable for parents.

“Early education needs to be the next climate change, or cap and trade or the next Local Control Funding Formula or the next big transportation package — that is what it needs to be for the next governor,” said Khydeeja Alam Javid, director of governmental relations at the Advancement Project and Chose Children partner, in a recent KPCC-FM interview. “So we’re doing everything possible to make sure that’s the case.”

Learn more about the Chose Children 2018 initiative here.