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“Opportunity starts at the beginning of each and every child’s life. And while income inequality and stagnant wages have left millions of families struggling, common-sense policies like preschool and high-quality affordable child care ensure that regardless of a child’s zip code or life circumstances, every child gets a fair shot at life.

“Each year we don’t institute universal preschool or a national child care solution, our children, our families, our economy and our future lose out.”

“The Kids Are Still Not Alright: It’s time for the United States to expand early childhood education programs,” by Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, U.S. News and World Report, July 21, 2016

 

Image: Zero to Three

Image: Zero to Three

 

Zero to Three, the national nonprofit, decided to tune in to parents by going largely “to Millennials and Generation X mothers and fathers—to learn more about the challenges they face, the help they seek and how satisfied they are with the parenting support and information they receive.”

It was “a comprehensive research effort” that included “a series of in-home discussions and a large national parent survey” of a diverse range of parents whose children were ages 0 to 5.

One goal: to help parents put the powerful science of early childhood brain development into action.

“I want to be the catcher,” one father says about the role he plays for his children, explaining that when he was young, his father wasn’t there to play football with him.

“I just thought it was going to be like this TV show and it was great and everything was wonderful,” one mom says. “I read the books. I felt super prepared and then reality hits. You are like, what the hell happened? None of that stuff is as it was planned. Things go wrong and things change.”

These are some of the responses in the report, “Tuning In: Parents of Young Children Tell Us What They Think, Know and Need,” which comes with infographics and videos of parents sharing their thoughts.

Specifically, Zero to Three asked parents:

• “What they understand about brain development and the impact that early experiences have on children’s long-term development”

• “Whether they believe that parenting skills can be learned”

• “What they struggle with most when it comes to childrearing”

• “How their own childhood experiences affect how they approach parenting,” and

• “What kind of information they want to receive, where they go for parenting help, whether it’s serving their needs”

Common themes emerged in parents’ answers, including:

• “When it comes to attitudes, aspirations and parenting challenges, there is more that unites than divides parents.”

• “Parents universally believe that parenting can be learned and that if they had more positive parenting strategies they would use them.”

• “Dads are more than babysitters. They love being involved fathers, and want—and deserve—more credit.”

• “There is a ‘missing’ first year,” because parents don’t realize “how young babies are when they can begin to feel complex emotions, and how deeply they can be affected by the way parents interact with them in the first months of life.”

• “There is an expectation gap when it comes to understanding children’s capabilities.” Parents sometimes “overestimate the age at which children master some important developmental skills,”

• “Parents face a discipline dilemma.” They “want to use effective approaches, but many say that finding the right way to discipline is hard,” and

• There’s also a trust gap: “Parents want advice, but are overwhelmed by sources of help and underwhelmed by the quality of what they’re getting.” In addition: “Half of parents aren’t getting the support they need when they feel overwhelmed or stressed—the time when help is most important.”

To address these challenges, the report issues a multi-step call to action that asks professionals who work with families to:

• provide parents with clear “science-based information about early development” and ways they can use this information to nurture their children”

• Use “the voices and experiences of real parents in any efforts to support parents of young children.”

• “Help parents find positive disciplinary strategies that work.”

• “Celebrate and harness fathers’ commitment to be involved in raising their young children.”

• Develop media that presents child-rearing advice in “relatable ways,” and

• “Create opportunities for parents to learn from each other—to share challenges, brainstorm solutions, and offer support.”

The need for creative, engaging, community-based opportunities to learn more about parenting can be summed up by one father’s comment about his son.

“Teach me now. You show me. And at the same time, I’ll teach him, and we’ll teach each other. I want that.”

To join the discussion on social media, use #ParentForward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How can we use this? How can we get this in the hands of parents, especially when children are little?”

That’s the question education officials in Burlington, Mass., asked about the book “Make Time for Reading,” — by author and early literacy expert Jean Ciborowski Fahey — in a news story produced by local television station BCAT TV. The story features interviews with Burlington School Committee member Kristin Russo and Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce president Rick Parker.

This book was chosen for its unique qualities and design. The pages alternate. The left hand-pages have tips for parents and caregivers about reading to children. And the right-hand pages feature a story that adults can read to children.

The Burlington School Committee is teaming up with the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce to distribute the books to families, according to Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti. Parents of new babies will receive the book while at the hospital or in the mail. So far, roughly 1,000 copies have been given to families. The goal is to distribute a total of 1,500.

It’s a great fusion of books, adults, children, and community action around early literacy.

 

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

“What does it take to get preschool right?” NPR asks in this article.

Answers can be found in a new report from The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) called, “The Road to High-Quality Early Learning: Lessons from the States.”

The institute “conducts and communicates independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice.”

“Although many studies show that high-quality preschool returns $7 to $10 for every dollar invested, the research shows that it is not so easy to create high-quality preschool at scale, and not all programs reap these benefits,” Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the LPI says in a press release. “This study looks deeply at how governments can design and implement programs that pay off for their children and their state.”

NPR says the report “helps balance the preschool debate by highlighting a handful of states that appear to be getting pre-K right: Michigan, West Virginia, Washington and North Carolina.” Continue Reading »

“Superintendent Mark Bedell arrived Friday for his first official day on the job with Kansas City Public Schools and wasted no time making his presence known.

“Before the day was done, Bedell announced his first policy move — a seven-hour pre-kindergarten day at no cost for 1,100 Kansas City children.

“‘This is a great day for Kansas City Public Schools and for the entire Kansas City community,’ Bedell said during the announcement at the Woodland Early Learning Center. ‘We must do everything possible to make sure our children get the preparation they need to succeed in school and achieve their dreams.’

“Expanded early childhood education was a promise Bedell made during his first visits to Kansas City as a candidate for the superintendent’s job.

“‘If money was no object, I would begin educating children at the age of 2,’ Bedell had said then, and repeated Friday afternoon.”

“On his first day leading KC schools, Mark Bedell launches a full-day pre-kindergarten program,” The Kansas City Star, July 1, 2016

 

Image: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

Image: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

 

A new publication — the “Early Childhood Workforce Index 2016” — presents a familiar good news/bad news scenario about early educators.

The good news: “Early educators play a central role in the environments in which millions of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers develop and learn.” The country relies on educators’ “ knowledge and skills to provide high-quality early care and education to our increasingly diverse population of children and families.”

But here’s the bad news: “our system of preparing, supporting, and rewarding early educators in the United States remains largely ineffective, inefficient, and inequitable, posing multiple obstacles to teachers’ efforts to nurture children’s optimal development and learning, as well as risks to their own well-being.”

The index was just released by Marcy Whitebook and her colleagues at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Continue Reading »

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 9.32.09 AMHow do children get to kindergarten? They might take a bus or walk with a parent.

But for policymakers the more pressing question is: How do children get from birth to kindergarten?

Have they been read to? Have they been hungry? Have they been homeless or learned to live with toothaches? Have their parents struggled with depression or addiction?

The answers are crucial and can affect whether or not a child is kindergarten-ready. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform tackles this challenge in the latest issue of VUE, its Voices in Urban Education magazine.

Part of Brown University, Annenberg is “a national policy-research and reform support organization that promotes quality education for all children, especially in urban communities.”

The guest editor for this issue is Michael Grady, the Annenberg Institute’s deputy director and an assistant professor of practice in the Urban Education Policy master’s program at Brown University.

Grady sets the stage in the lead article writing:

“With widespread support for the expansion of early education programs, there is an increased need for collaboration across systems to support the critical transition from pre-K to elementary school in order to ensure positive educational outcomes for all.” Continue Reading »

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