State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, was commended recently for her continual work making Connecticut a better place for children to live and grow.

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance recognized Boucher as a Children's Champion for ushering legislation aimed at improving outcomes for young children, taking special interest in the issues facing young children and engaging with advocates on early childhood legislation centering on health, nutrition and safety.

"It is an incredible honor to be named a Children's Champion and to stand among these distinguished community leaders and elected officials who share my strong value and commitment to early childhood issues," Boucher said.

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Awards were presented to Boucher and other state legislators at the state Capitol. The room was packed with a number of parents, early childhood advocates and activist leaders from across the state.

Boucher received the award for her efforts to promote early childhood issues both locally in her profession and at the state Capitol.

"Sen. Boucher was chosen as a 2012 Children's Champion for demonstrating a strong level of commitment to early childhood through leadership on policy issues during the 2012 legislative session, and active involvement on local early childhood initiatives," Maggie Adair, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said.

The alliance is a statewide membership and advocacy organization committed to improving developmental outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security for children ages birth to eight. It has member organizations which employ more than 3,000 Connecticut residents and provide care and education for nearly 20,000 children.

"I want to thank the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance for strong advocacy surrounding preschool education and early childhood education," Boucher said.

Boucher also recognized Elaine Zimmerman of the Connecticut Commission on Children for her work on the science of early learning. She has highlighted the fact that 80 percent of what a child learns is learned from birth to the age of 5.

"An investment in this age group will give us the greatest return and help us close the widest in the nation's achievement gap," Boucher said.

Boucher also received the Children's Champion award from the alliance in 2009. She is a ranking member of both the Education and Higher Education committees and dedicates much of her time to issues involving youth programs, children's issues and education. She has also been a chairman of the Wilton Board of Education, state Board of Education and is deputy minority leader of the Senate and assistant minority leader in the House.

Boucher serves the communities of Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding, Westport, New Canaan, Weston and Bethel.