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‘Move to Pensacola, where we tune into kids’

“You’ll be an early learning city.”

As soon as the words came out of Dana Suskind’s mouth, a roomful of heads nodded.

Suskind, the author of “Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain,” is a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and the director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, which gives deaf children the opportunity to hear. She founded the Thirty Million Words Initiative to help parents build the language skills of their children, which Suskind says is the most powerful force in a child’s early years.

Suskind was in Pensacola to give a talk at Washington High School as part of an early learning project by the Studer Community Institute and Pensacola News Journal.

Prior to her presentation, she met with members of the Institute’s board and other business and civic leaders to talk about ways to make kindergarten readiness a community priority.

“If we get this right,” said Institute founder Quint Studer, “wherever you go you in this community you’re (helping children) get kindergarten ready. When you go up the stairs at a Wahoo game, there will be numbers on the stairs that children will be ale to count on their way up. If we build in education like this into all of our environments, all of our parks…”

And that’s when Suskind interrupted Studer to say, “You’ll be an early learning city.”

Studer talked about this during his introduction of Suskind at Washington High School.

An elementary school teacher who attended Suskind’s presentation said she thought the idea of becoming an early learning city was a great opportunity for the community.

“The thing that spoke to me was when Quint and Dana said we could become the first early-learning city in the nation. It’s one thing to be known as the first settlement, but to be known as the leader in early education would be incredible. I think the idea of counting steps at the Wahoo Stadium is brilliant. Kids love scavenger hunts. Even adults love scavenger hunts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a scavenger hunt of learning opportunities for children throughout the city.

“Our motto could be, ‘Move to Pensacola where we tune into kids.’”