ENTERTAINMENT

In White House Twitter chat, Shakira pushes for higher funding for early education

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 18:   Shakira and her son Milan look on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and SD Eibar at Camp Nou on October 18, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 18: Shakira and her son Milan look on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and SD Eibar at Camp Nou on October 18, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

Shakira, who has been a motivated advocate for early childhood education for many years, says she is trying to teach her nearly 2-year-old son Milan as many languages as she can.

In a recent Twitter Q & A as part of the White House’s "Invest in Us" summit on early education Wednesday, the Colombian singer said she and boyfriend Gerard Pique speak at least seven languages in front of their son.

“Any child can learn languages before they’re 3 – we expose Milan to Spanish, Catalan, English, French, Germany, Russian and Chinese,” she tweeted in Spanish when asked about raising a multilingual child.

“Babies have an innate thirst for knowledge and enjoying learning – making it fun through focuses play is another way of bonding,” she added in English. “Kids are able 2 comprehend more than we think – it’s never too early 2 start teaching & exposing them to books even as newborns.”

Shakira, who serves on the president’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, hosted the Twitter Q&A with education Secretary Arne Duncan.

During the 30-minute session, the “Hips Don’t Lie” singer challenged politicians to act and invest in higher quality learning in early education because “kids who access it are better prepared to learn though primary, secondary & higher ed, and thrive throughout life,” she tweeted.

“Unequal access to ed. affects nations rich & poor, but in the US school dropouts will be reduced by increasing ECD programs,” Shakira tweeted.

Education has been an important topic for the singer, who said earlier this year that she gained a real sense of perspective as a young child growing up surrounded by children suffering extreme poverty with zero access to education that could improve their situation.

“Even at a young age, seeing that gave me a profound sense of the injustice that something so arbitrary as the place you were born could determine your fate for the rest of your life,” she told Media Planet.

She tweeted Wednesday: “Education turns kids into productive citizens, is proven to boost GDPs of nations, and promotes global security and stability.”

As part of the summit, President Barack Obama declared early childhood education "one of the best investments we can make" and announced $1 billion in public-private spending on programs for young learners.

Obama said that less than one-third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool and blamed the high cost of these programs for essentially shutting off access to poorer infants, toddlers and preschoolers. He said studies repeatedly show that children who are educated early in life are more likely to finish their education, avoid the criminal justice system, hold good jobs and have stable families. All those factors are good for the U.S. and its economy overall, Obama said.

"We've got kids in this country who are every bit as talented as Malia and Sasha but they're starting out the race a step behind," Obama said, referencing his teenage daughters.

Joining Shakira in highlighting the importance of educating children in their first five years are actresses Jennifer Garner and Julianne Moore and singer John Legend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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