Our Story

Our community is part of a national Basics Learning Network of communities, all dedicated to The Basics vision. The network is led by The Basics, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Boston, where the movement began.

Our Vision:

The Basics Vision is a Amarillo where infants, toddlers, and preschoolers of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds are on track to achieve their full potential--having benefited from early experiences that foster healthy brain development, learning, joy, and resilience.

Our Mission:

The Basics Mission is to pursue both equity and excellence, by building community capacity to engage and support parents and other caregivers of young children in their roles as the most important influences in their children's lives.

National History

The Basics movement began because of three research-based facts:

  1. Early childhood experiences have long-term impacts on brain architecture, kindergarten readiness, and lifetime success.

  2. Cognitive skill gaps between children from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds are clear in national data long before kindergarten, by the age of two.

  3. Research on the science of early development provides strong guidance regarding what children need to experience in order to thrive, instead of falling behind early.

Founder Dr. Ron Ferguson was the faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University, when he first noticed in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (Birth Cohort) that cognitive skill gaps between children of different racial, ethnic, and parental-education groups were very apparent by twenty-four months. He began exploring how to contribute to the large body of work that was already underway to support early learning and brain development, but he wanted to scale across whole communities to reach every child, starting at birth.

The AGI convened a national conference and science advisory committee to formulate five tenets of caregiving practice, now called The Basics Principles, around which to organize The Basics movement. The aim was socioecological saturation, meaning to infuse multiple settings in communities with information, social reinforcements, and regular reminders regarding the benefits of using The Basics Principles routinely in early childhood parenting/caregiving.

The AGI and The Black Philanthropy Fund (an organization of African Americans in Boston) formally launched The Basics movement in Boston in September of 2016 to help prepare children from all backgrounds and across whole neighborhoods to thrive, starting at birth.

The word spread quickly. By December, teams from 11 cities convened in Boston to learn about The Principles, the tools, and the approach. Rather than wait years for Boston to refine the approach, attendees agreed, “We'll figure it out together.” The Basics Learning Network (BLN) was thereby born. It operates under the leadership of The Basics, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization under the fiscal sponsorship of Third Sector New England (TSNE).

Today, coalitions across dozens of BLN cities, towns, and counties in the US, Brazil, and Australia are engaging their communities, participating in BLN research, and regularly convening to learn, innovate, and share best practices.

Amarillo History

Amarillo is located at the top of the Texas Panhandle with a total population of about 200,000 people. It is the largest city in the Panhandle. Amarillo is known for The Big Texan Steak House, the Cadillac Ranch as well as Palo Duro Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the country.

Between 2,000- 3,000 babies are born in Amarillo hospitals each year. The majority racial/ethnic group is Caucasian/White followed by Hispanic at 34% and Black/African American at 7% and about 16% persons living in poverty. Amarillo is also a resettlement site for refugees from all over the world, with one of our local schools having over 32 languages represented.

Operation First Five (OF5), a collective impact group in Amarillo, focuses on elevating the importance of brain development in the early years through widespread public messaging in the community. In March of 2017, through a kind of serendipitous happenstance, we connected with our local school district’s Assistant Superintendent Sandy Whitlow. She previously attended an educators’ conference where she heard Dr. Ferguson speak about The Basics. She returned to Amarillo enlightened and a champion for the work of the first five years and asked, “Who is doing this in Amarillo?” and of course we (OF5) said “We Are!”  And so OF5 began to learn about The Basics while working on our collective goals and laying the groundwork for this sociological saturation messaging strategy.

A little while later, our mayor at the time, Ginger Nelson, said, “I want to use my microphone to elevate this issue, let’s do something big,” and so OF5 hosted the very first Mayor’s Summit in Amarillo, April 2019. We invited local business owners and city leaders to attend. Dr. Ferguson spoke and Mayor Betsy Price from Fort Worth, Texas who was also leading some strong early childhood efforts shared her initiative and the importance of this issue connected to workforce development.  This Summit was a seed to spark more of an interest that has engaged a larger variety of partners who became more interested in this work. We continue to spread and share the Basics to engage various partners in order to strengthen and build strong early learning systems of care across all sectors.