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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- From a small cubicle, Amy Bartilotti is dreaming of big things.

"Not only can you make an impact.  You can make a huge impact just by doing these things," she said,

As the coordinator for Family and Community Engagement for Chesterfield County Schools, Bartilotti promotes a program to help children before they start their first class.

Amy Bartilotti

"Children begin learning before they're ever born," she explained. "This gives parents the tools and the understanding of how much of an impact those first three years are."

She's talking about The Basics campaign.

The regional initiative is inspired by the fact that 80% of brain growth happens in the first three years of life.

Everyday interactions between children, their parents, and other caregivers can provide opportunities to give children from every background a more equal start in life.

"All of the kids are hearing 'Sshh! Quit hitting your sister! Be quiet. Put that down. Don't touch it, it's hot.  You guys are making me crazy.' They're all hearing that the same amount.  The difference of what they're hearing though are those words of encouragement."

There are five basic things parents and caregivers can do to help babies and toddlers build better minds:

* MAXIMIZE LOVE

* TALK MORE

* COUNT AND COMPARE

* EXPLORE THROUGH MOVEMENT AND PLAY

* AND READ AND DISCUSS STORIES

Bartilotti encourages parents to find out more through "the basics" website, and getting more people involved.

"We're just starting to talk about it.  But truly the heavy lifting is being done by the entire community," she said. "By the Children's Museum and our public libraries and home visiting programs and health care providers."

Building that awareness... is Building Better Minds.

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