The Valentine’s Day gifts that children really need


by Tanya Keith

As a mother of three children of very different ages, I find myself thinking about the Valentine’s gifts I want to give them, especially considering the results of the 2016 election and the activism of the past few weeks.

I was raised by an early childhood educator, and I want to pass on my love of quality public education to my children. I live in Iowa, where we are not only closely watching the appointments of the Trump administration, but also looking at the decisions happening at our state legislature for their support of education.

For my teenager, I want to give the gift of research and discovery.

She will be old enough to vote in the next election, so I spend time with her looking at candidates and current elected officials. I’m teaching her to ask questions directly of the people who represent her and to be an advocate for the things she believes in. She had a writing assignment to contact one of her representatives about something she was passionate about. I found her letter to be so moving, I helped her schedule an appointment to deliver it in person while our representative was in Iowa over the holidays. She is old enough to learn the art of peaceful protest and activism, and I love watching her share her spirit with our political universe.

For my elementary school child, I want to share the gift of curiosity.

He is becoming aware of the world around him and how the systems of his school, neighborhood, city, state and country all interact to create the educational system he has experienced since preschool. I enjoy the questions he asks about how schools work, how curriculum is developed, the importance of funding and how all these decisions impact different populations. I want to teach him the importance of being present and involved in his school and in our district.

Then there is our baby, who isn’t even ready for the earliest of pre-K programs.

She keeps me focused on the future and tuned in to what decisions are happening today that will impact her access and that of her peers to early childhood education. She is the one who motivates me to get myself to Iowa’s capitol to advocate for adequate funding and quality public school choices starting in pre-K. She inspires me to call my state and national representatives until I’m sure their office staff recognizes my voice. It’s for her that I strive to find my strongest voice for education.

So in the midst of shopping for greeting cards and chocolates, I hope you’ll take a moment to send a Valentine to your representatives, by yourself or with your children of any age, to encourage them to advocate for kids.

Date night with your love will last one day, but advocating for education is a Valentine’s gift that can last a lifetime.

Send a message: Congress, invest in early childhood education programs for children around the country

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Tanya Keith is a mom of three in Des Moines, Iowa. She’s the author of “Passionate Soccer Love: A Memoir of 20 Years Following US Soccer.” She is a historic preservationist working on restoring the Historic Hatton House and other 100+ year old homes. She writes the blogs and She is an activist in the River Bend Neighborhood of Des Moines.