June is Pride month, a time to celebrate LGBTQIA2S+ communities and reflect. Pride month exists to foster a sense of community, appreciate differences, and cultivate diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging for queer folx around the world.

Pride month is so important to us here at Start Early. We are committed to cultivating an environment built on the values of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Participating in Pride month is one way Start Early demonstrates a commitment to co-creating an organizational culture of inclusion where the presence, voices and ideas of staff and the communities we serve are represented, heard, valued, and acted upon.

Our work, focused on providing a bright and equitable future for all children, would not be possible without recognizing that LGBTQIA2S+ children, families and communities have been uniquely impacted and traumatized by hate and long-tolerated inequities.

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Caring parents want to protect their children from harm, which can make it difficult to know how to teach children about the history and create awareness about events like Pride. With many neighborhoods and communities showing their support for Pride in June, it’s only natural for children to get curious and start asking questions.

Child development experts agree parents should keep explanations simple and honest. It is also important to be positive and affirming. When adults listen to children without judgment, and meet children where they are at, it creates a foundation for open communication. When parents promote values of acceptance, children will grow proud of their identity and appreciate diversity.

Resources to Help Celebrate Pride Month with Your Children

Pride month is an important opportunity to teach children about what it means to be a member of LGBTQIA2S+ communities, share the history behind the month-long celebration, and to have some fun together as a family. Here are activities and resources that can be helpful when teaching your little one about Pride:

Watch:

Read:

Listen:

Additional Resources:

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“One… two… three…” you say as you count your baby’s toys for them. Even though your baby can’t solve equations, let alone speak, they are building early math and language skills with each number they hear.

And you don’t need to stop at numbers — there are many early math concepts that you can introduce to your young child, simply through language, play and reading books.

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Here are some fun activity ideas to help introduce early math concepts to your child:

  • Discover geometry: Shapes are a big part of geometry. Labeling different shapes — from squares to circles to stars — will help your child start to associate the words with the shapes, setting the early foundation of geometry. With toddlers and preschoolers, look at two- and three-dimensional shapes, so they can see how each object looks and functions. Blocks in different shapes are a great tool to use for this.
  • Play with volume: If you cook in the kitchen, you are already using volume. For babies and toddlers, start by using words like teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, pint and quart while you are cooking to get them familiar with the terms. Preschoolers can help you measure out ingredients using measuring cups and spoons. You can play fun games that teach incremental volume: how many tablespoons does it take to fill a quarter cup? How many cups go into your quart measuring cup?
  • Use comparisons: Many math lessons will involve word problems and comparisons as early as kindergarten. The more familiarity that your child has with comparison terms, the easier it will be for them to understand the word problems. You can create opportunities for your child to learn to compare by using toys of different sizes and words like more, less, lighter, heavier, bigger and smaller.
  • See how tall they are: By the time they are preschoolers, most children become interested in how tall and how heavy they are. One idea to help talk about height is to chart their growth on a wall, showing how tall they are each year. For preschoolers, you can also begin to introduce units of measurement like inches and feet by helping your child use a ruler to measure how much they have grown.
  • Reading books: Reading is an excellent way of introducing math language and concepts to your child. Books are a natural entry point that make learning math fun in the early years. Engaging your child in the math in storybooks build on their interest, discoveries and questions. Here are some great children’s book recommendations that are full of wonderful math concepts:

Through simple language and play, young children will start to learn essential early math and STEM skills. And remember, especially for babies and toddlers, just hearing these words early and often helps plant the seed for your future mathematician.

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Through just this one simple act you are bonding with your child, inspiring a love of reading—and are helping them develop strong early language and literacy skills that will become the foundation for their future learning and success. In fact, studies show that reading aloud is a primary driver of young children’s early language development.

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To help you and your child get the most out of your storytime while celebrating National Library Week at home, here are 12 early literacy tips from our early learning experts at Start Early and our Educare Chicago school:

  1. Start early. Reading to babies is important for healthy brain development and lays the foundation for language and writing skills.
  2. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Establishing a routine helps ensure that reading is part of your daily schedule, such as at naptime and bedtime. It also creates times during the day that both of you can look forward to.
  3. Try board and cloth books for babies. By age 1, babies can grab books.  Board and cloth books are great options for babies who like to touch things and put everything in their mouths.
  4. Take turns with your toddler. By age 2, toddlers can hold a book and point at the pictures. Let your toddler turn the pages of a board book and respond to her when she points or reacts to the story.
  5. Ask your child questions. As you read to your child, make the experience interactive by asking him questions, such as “What do you think will happen next?” “What was your favorite part of the story? Why?”
  6. Reread your child’s favorite books. By age 3, children can complete sentences in familiar stories. Read her favorite books over and over to help her learn through repetition.
  7. Point out similar words. By age 4, children begin to recognize letters. You can point out words in a book that begin with the same letter to your preschooler to help him become familiar with the letter and begin to associate certain words with that letter.
  8. Count objects on the page. As you read to your child, count objects on the page together to help her also strengthen her early math skills.
  9. Have your preschooler tell you the story. By age 5, children can sit still for longer books and can create their own stories based on the pictures. Ask your preschooler to tell you the basic plot of the book or to make up stories based on what he sees on each page.
  10. Read with passion! Using inflection and maintaining the same highs and lows in your voice at the same point in a story helps your child begin to remember the words.
  11. Set an example. Let your child see you reading your books to help her develop her own love of reading.
  12. Just keep reading. Reading to your child helps him develop a habit of listening to stories and loving books. One the most important pieces of advice is to make sure you are reading to him early and often.

No matter how old your child is — from babies to toddlers to preschoolers — these tips will help you capitalize on this valuable time with your child, making reading a fun, educational and memorable experience for both of you.

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While the idea of “history” may be outside the understanding of a very young child, we can still celebrate Women’s History Month with them by reading books together that celebrate the potential and achievements of girls and women.

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Young children are constantly learning about the world and what is possible for them. Themed history months offer a wonderful opportunity to take stock of your home or classroom library and ask yourself: am I presenting a rich view of the world? Am I offering children ideas and possibilities? Am I fostering a strong sense of self, and an openness towards difference? Books are windows and mirrors, they can reflect children’s own lives, and they can offer glimpses into the lives of others. Women’s History Month presents us with a wonderful opportunity to explore the infinite paths a child might choose to pursue, regardless of gender.

When you select a new book to read with your child, choose something you think you will also enjoy. Your enthusiasm will be catching! Look for books with features that appeal to young children’s imaginations—not too many words on each page, rhythmic or rhyming text and illustrations that invite wonder. The books below are chosen for their appealing texts, rich illustrations and simple—but not simplistic—concepts. While the titles are sorted by age, all the books for the youngest readers will work with preschool-aged children also, and some, (like I Am Enough,) are books you might want to read even without a small child at your side! A high-quality picture-book with beautiful illustrations works for every age, (including adults!) because images are texts that foster meaning-making.

Children’s Books to Read During Women’s History Month

Whether your child is a toddler, in pre-K or on their way to kindergarten, here are some great book recommendations from Anne-Marie Akin, our Educare Chicago librarian to read during this month and beyond:

Books recommended for infants:

Books recommended for toddlers:

Books recommended for children in pre-K or kindergarten:

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As we reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the National Day of Racial Healing, we asked our early learning experts for advice on how talk to your little ones about racial healing, equity and justice.

As a parent, it can sometimes be difficult to talk to your children about serious issues like racism, but it is so very important. Sparking conversation with your little ones on this topic can help them to address bias and to be mindful as they navigate this big and sometimes scary world we live in.

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Children's Books on Racial Healing

One of the best ways to help your child learn is through reading. By choosing books that affirm the identities and backgrounds of all children you and your child can have an open dialogue about recognizing and celebrating differences. Here are book recommendations from our early learning experts to read aloud with your little one to learn about racial healing:

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The month of December is often referenced as the most wonderful time of year, and I have always taken advantage of this time to personally reflect and think about the successes and challenges over the past 12 months. 2023 has been a tumultuous year for me as I personally experienced the best and worst that our profession has to offer, getting caught in the crossfires of a book ban aimed at dismantling the foundation of the early learning profession. My experience has strengthened my resolve that we must invest in young children and the workforce that serves them by providing holistic, high quality early learning environments.

I am frequently asked how the so-called “culture wars” impact early childhood education. I begin these conversations praising our early childhood workforce for their resilience and commitment to early learning. We show up every day to serve children and families despite what’s happening around us. We hug babies and toddlers and offer support for families when our own world is crumbling due to the lack of infrastructure to fund our profession and support our work to create inclusive early childhood systems.

We cannot continue to ask more and more of our workforce while our country continues to devalue and disrespect our early educators.

  • Early childhood workforce turnover is as high as 40% 1
  • Average wages are $11-15/hour, with early educator poverty rates 8X that of K-12 educators. The federal poverty line for a family of 4 is $30,000. A typical early educator earning the average hourly wage would come in around $26,000 annually 2
  • Professionals are deeply stressed, with depression rates 13% higher than the national average 3

These statistics are compounded when we consider that our workforce is comprised primarily of women – particularly women of color.

Recently, we have seen yet another wave of oppressive legislation and public attacks, including doing away with loan forgiveness and affirmative action, striking the right to abortion, and demonizing and limiting the use of words and practices around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

All of these efforts silence, scare and limit our efforts to foster a diverse and effective workforce that provides high quality early learning experiences for children and families. How can we be okay with policies and practices that discriminate against children and families while disregarding their culture and diversity?

Attacking Early Childhood Quality

On a personal note, for 5 years I led in a state where we heralded pre-k as a bi-partisan policy effort and as a result we had a pre-k program that was number 1 in reaching NIEER (National Institute for Early Education Research) quality for 17 years in a row. For DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice) to be under attack now is unconscionable as DAP was always the foundation for quality in our classrooms.

Terms including “culturally responsive,” “social-emotional learning,” “implicit bias,” and “diversity” are being censured. When states change competencies, dismantle standards and professional learning to remove these words, it prevents our workforce from receiving the support they need to employ best practices that are critical for children’s development. An urgent example is the crisis we are experiencing around harsh discipline practices that disproportionately affect black children. We must teach culturally responsive, anti-racist, and anti-bias pedagogy to address this.

Silencing and Restricting Workforce Rights

We have a staffing crisis and desperately need qualified, prepared teachers and staff. Striking down Affirmative Action and Loan Forgiveness programs shuts down essential educational support for staff.

When our professionals can’t access the healthcare they need for themselves and their families because of losing Reproductive Rights, it jeopardizes well-being.

“Color Blind” lawsuits threaten specific programs and interventions for Black, LatinX, and indigenous children and families who make up both our workforce and classroom populations. We see gaps in rights, quality of life, and wealth growing even bigger from this discrimination and racism. The workforce, and the children and families we serve, are from diverse backgrounds and we cannot serve them effectively when we employ strategies that force us to ignore the complexities of race, culture and ethnicity.

A question I keep hearing is, “How can we remain hopeful and enable a brighter future for our professionals, families and children?” My response is that there is no living and no better tomorrow without hope. Hope allows us to return each day knowing that we are making a difference and putting the needs of others first.

At Start Early our mission is to eliminate the opportunity gap so that all children can thrive and learn. We are focused on four areas of action:

  1. Career Pathways. We must create accessible and affordable pathways to support our workforce in getting the credentials and knowledge they need to earn higher wages.
  2. Professional Learning. We need powerful, rich onboarding to support new staff. We must improve workplace culture and climate to be inclusive and supportive. And we need to foster ongoing learning to increase educator effectiveness and confidence – and improve retention.
  3. Engage Congress & Lawmakers. We must raise awareness about the science behind early childhood and demand support for early learning as the economic plan for improving our country and preparing tomorrow’s leaders.
  4. Support Each Other. And equally important, we can create space to slow down and be intentional about supportive environments in our programs and classrooms. We can embrace rest, joy, relationships, and connections. This is what will help us cultivate resiliency and hope as we face these historic challenges to our workforce.

“Culture Wars” are a call to action for us all. As we prepare to end one year and start a new one, we must ensure that the early learning workforce has the support necessary to build strong relationships with children and families that last a lifetime. Our educators must not be forced to work in fear of retaliation for using strategies that optimize early learning spaces. It is up to each of us to do our part to tackle these issues with those in power. We must arm ourselves with knowledge and engage our communities and local coalitions to spread the word about why the work we are doing for our youngest citizens matters. We must demand for every child what we expect for our own young children.


Sources
1Turnover: Ed Surge; OPRE; Yale Medicine 
2 Hourly Wage Average & Rate of Poverty: 2020 Early Educator Workforce Index; Alabama 
3Depression: Children’s Equity Project, Mental Health Report

Head Start programs across the country are facing an enrollment crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and a persistent staffing shortage. According to a NIEER report, Head Start programs enrolled around 257,000 fewer children (a 33% decline) during the 2020-21 program year than they did in 2018-19. Numerous families made other arrangements for their children. Many centers had to reduce the number of classrooms they operated and struggled to find and retain qualified staff – leaving remaining staff with less capacity to support recruitment.

Although enrollment numbers have started to rebound in recent years, the disruptions and challenges exacerbated by the pandemic continue to plague Head Start programs. As of February of this year, NHSA reports that under-enrollment is a big problem for many programs, with current enrollment relative to funded enrollment at roughly 79% for Head Start and 81% for Early Head Start nationally. Many Head Start programs are scrambling to rebuild their capacity and recruit more families to enroll with a looming threat of funding cuts if they are unable to fill slots. The innovations and lessons learned from Head Start programs during this time may also provide ideas for leaders of other publicly funded early learning programs and systems – like home visiting – that may also be looking to ensure families are aware of and able to access and enroll in these critical services.

Also, it is worth noting that recruitment, eligibility, and enrollment barriers occur at numerous levels. The research discussed in this blog focuses on challenges at the local and program level. To learn more about national trends and Head Start in general, check out this post.

Recent Research Provides Insight Into Key factors Affecting Enrollment

In January 2022, Start Early embarked on a new interdisciplinary project, funded by the Vivo Foundation, to understand barriers to Head Start enrollment in Chicago Head Start programs. The multi-year project sought to address a key challenge: improve recruitment and enrollment to ensure more eligible children and their families receive high-quality Head Start supports.

In the first phase of the project, researchers used a human-centered design approach to understand the current state of recruitment efforts and experiences from a staff and family perspective. They surveyed Head Start staff most knowledgeable about recruitment and enrollment and conducted interviews with families.

Findings suggest strategies to increase enrollment:

Action Area 1: Reduce barriers to entry for families and create welcoming environments.
Systems leaders need to be aware of hidden barriers that families may face, including confusing or burdensome eligibility requirements, lengthy wait times, and a first impression that programs have a regimented, transactional, and unwelcoming approach to families. Such barriers might be mitigated by:

  • Addressing the stigma and hurdles that families feel by creating warm and welcoming environments. Program leaders and staff need support to understand and address the stigma that some families may feel around demonstrating and documenting their eligibility for EHS/HS services. Staff also need to be prepared to be upfront with parents about expectations and timelines; yet still warm and inviting.
  • Clarifying eligibility requirements so parents and staff know what is needed. Eligibility requirements and timelines from application to enrollment are not always clear to families and the paperwork required can be burdensome and invasive for some parents given the amount of personal information requested.

Action Area 2: Support Head Start Centers to communicate about program effectiveness and benefits. Parents are interested in high quality, child-centric programs. Programs and systems need to find more effective ways to communicate program benefits and quality. This might be achieved by:

  • Digital marketing. Programs need support to build an online presence that is accurate, appealing, and accessible (e.g., free of unfamiliar jargon, translated into families’ home languages) because most families start their search for information online. The lack of such digital information may inadvertently create barriers for families.
  • Clarifying availability of programs that meet families’ needs. Many working families want full-day programs and need easier access to information about program availability and qualification requirements. Messaging should also highlight other important areas for families, including proximity, safety, and cleanliness.
  • Highlighting the research supporting early childhood education and program quality. Parents need more assurance that Head Start programs meet their personal priorities and standards, especially in the providing high-quality early learning experiences by credentialed teachers. Highlighting the evidence of Head Start’s documented impact and value could help encourage parents to enroll in Head Start programs.

Programs Cannot Address These Challenges Alone

As a next step in this project, Start Early staff have partnered with several Head Start programs to test new strategies for reaching, recruiting, and supporting families – including though more effective communication strategies and employing a relationship-based approach. However, program-level efforts alone are likely insufficient to address this systemic, national challenge; systems leaders have a key role to play, including not only supporting scaling of the efforts described above, but in solving other contributing issues to this challenge, like workforce recruitment and retention. In addition, the lessons learned from Head Start programs in meeting enrollment goals may also be useful to leaders across other parts of the early childhood system as they seek to increase accessibility to other critical early childhood services and supports, from home visiting to child care subsidy.

Numerous teams across Start Early are focused on the challenges of Head Start enrollment this year. Be on the lookout for more details, including a report on strategies to increase enrollment and a digital marketing guide, in the coming months.


This blog post was co-authored by Amanda Stein, Managing Director, Research & Evaluation at Start Early. 

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Overview of Head Start

Head Start is a federally funded program founded in 1965 with the mission of promoting the school readiness of young children from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. This blog focuses primarily on Head Start programs, which provide preschool services and support to children ages three through five and their families, rather than Early Head Start, which supports pregnant people and families with children under age three. However, the challenges outlined here are applicable to Early Head Start as well. The focus on Head Start here is because that is where the majority of resources are currently dedicated.

Head Start programs are free for families who are eligible, which include:

  • Families who are at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Families receiving public assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Families experiencing homelessness
  • Children in foster care
  • Children with disabilities

With the child at the center of their approach, Head Start programs provide services in three key areas: early learning and development, family engagement and wellbeing, and health and wellness. There are also Head Start programs that provide services tailored to specific populations. American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Head Start programs serve children of AIAN heritage and offer traditional language and cultural practices that honor their rich heritage. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs provide services to families who are in agricultural labor and have changed their residence within two years or who are engaged in seasonal agricultural labor.

Head Start operates using a federal-to-local funding model. Head Start grantees include local school districts, nonprofit and for-profit groups, faith-based organizations, and tribal councils. Thus, Head Start can be provided in a variety of settings, including child care and development centers, schools, and family child care homes (Office of Head Start, 2022).

Access to Head Start

Close to one million children access Head Start and Early Head Start each year, yet many families cannot access the program due to a range of systemic and programmatic barriers. In 2021, the National Head Start Association conducted a survey, focus groups and key informant interviews that identified key issues that make participating in the program difficult for families – access to transportation, outdated locations, the instability of poverty, low income eligibility limits, inadequate hours of service for families, the workforce crisis, lack of awareness of the program’s comprehensive services, and a possible bias for school-based services.

Perhaps the greatest systemic barrier to accessing Head Start is the income eligibility limits. Income eligibility is based on the federal poverty guidelines. The United States’ method for determining the poverty level is incredibly outdated. The calculation does not consider housing, transportation, child care, or medical costs. Geographical differences are also not considered, even though costs of living vary significantly across the country. Another systemic barrier is transportation, with low income families disproportionately having limited or no access to personal or public transportation.

Head Start programs are required to conduct annual family and five-year community assessments to determine whether slots are distributed in the most appropriate locations, whether the hours of service are meeting families’ needs, and a variety of other topics. These assessments are then used by the program staff and the Policy Council to determine how best to implement the program. However, making significant changes such as changing the location of a center or increasing the hours of service can be costly, require a great deal of time, and be difficult to implement.

Conclusion

Head Start has a deep history providing two generational programming for very low income families. The standards have been reviewed and revised over the 60 years of implementation, based on research as well as parent, community, and grantee feedback. The power of Head Start is not only in its comprehensiveness but also in the inclusion of family leaders in governance and implementation of the program. In addition to being a child development program, Head Start is also an economic empowerment program, providing training and jobs for parents.

The funding per child for Head Start grantees, though significantly more than the average per child reimbursement for state pre-k, is directly related to the depth of the standards. It is important to note that as a national program, many of the regulations, funding and eligibility principles are averaged across all the states and territories. This can create significant implementation challenges for states and communities with high costs of living particularly regarding staff compensation, facilities, and enrolling income-eligible families. These challenges can lead to under enrollment and missed opportunities for collaboration in mixed delivery pre-k, leaving many families without the opportunity and supports needed as they strive to provide their children with a foundation for future social and academic success.

Federal policy solutions to these problems included allowing grantees to convert Head Start slots to Early Head Start slots with supports for the cost increases and allowing for automatic eligibility for families that already quality for SNAP and housing assistance. States can consider providing funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programming with higher income eligibility requirements that are more fitting for their state and community context.

For over 40 years Start Early has worked tirelessly to advance quality early learning and support for children and families. We know that starting early has the biggest impact on a child’s development and that Head Start and Early Head Start are an essential part of our work to help all children thrive.

In honor of Head Start Awareness Month, we spoke with Diana McClarien, our vice president of the Early/Head Start Network, to share how our relationship with Head Start began, the benefits of the program and our hopes for the future of Head Start and Early Head Start.

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Start Early & Head Start

Head Start Blocks logoStart Early’s partnership with Head Start began in 1985, coinciding with the launch of the Beethoven Project, a groundbreaking program developed to provide wraparound services – including early education options – to families in Chicago’s Grand Boulevard neighborhood. Initially starting off as a grantee of Head Start funding, Start Early has since developed a deep, decades-long relationship with Head Start, that has culminated in a Start Early, Early/Head Start Network, two directly operated programs, and the aligned goals of delivering equitable access to high-quality early learning and care for children and families in the areas in which we operate.

As our network now stands, we partner closely with several local community-based agencies, including our two directly operated programs – Educare Chicago and Healthy Parents & Babies – delivering not only early learning services but also crucial components like doula, home visiting, nutrition, family, health and wellness services. With Black and Hispanic children representing a disproportionate share of children living in disinvested areas, Head Start programs also play a crucial role in addressing opportunity gaps in school readiness for children facing systemic barriers.

Looking to the future, we will continue working in tandem with Head Start to best meet the needs of the families we serve and continue centering family and early childhood education provider voices and expertise in all areas of our work. We are also working to expand our network reach by partnering with new agencies to deliver Head Start services throughout Chicago and our surrounding suburbs and are actively expanding our efforts to address the teaching shortage in the early education field. Through this approach, we hope we can continue providing the best-in-class early education and services so that our children and families within our communities and programs can thrive.

In the 2022-2023 school year, Start Early served over 1,900 people through Head Start & Early Head Start programs, including 39 pregnant women.

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Head Start 101

Learn more about Head Start’s crucial role in promoting early childhood education, school readiness and comprehensive support for children and families across the country.

What is Head Start?

Head Start (HS) is a nation-wide, federally funded compensatory preschool education program. Head Start and Early Head Start (a division of Head Start specifically focused on children aged zero to three) are designed to promote school readiness in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Head Start also serves pregnant women with a range of prenatal supports and postpartum educational opportunities.

Since 1965, Head Start has long been considered a premier model for early childhood programs (Ramey & Ramey, 2010), and has aimed to foster development and school readiness skills for children from primarily low-income communities.

With Black and Hispanic children representing a disproportionate share of children in poverty, Head Start programs act as a lever to address longstanding racial and ethnic gaps in school readiness outcomes.

Children that participate in Head Start programs make tremendous progress in the areas of language, literacy, and math, and achieve average scores related to letter-word knowledge by the end of their first year (Aikens et al., 2013; Bloom and Weiland, 2015).

The benefits are even more robust for children enrolled in Early Head Start, with higher kindergarten readiness scores and increased social-emotional, language, and cognitive development than children who never attend a Head Start program. (Love et al., 2002)

Head Start as a Model

Head Start programs are typically located in high-poverty areas and provide comprehensive services that address the needs of the whole child, including their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Many Head Start and Early Head Start programs are located within nonprofit organizations. These nonprofit organizations are uniquely positioned to help identify child care needs and develop workable solutions for families. They can also connect families with additional services through their network of local partners, who are able to leverage alternative sources of funding.

Invest in a Child’s Earliest Years

The first five years are a critical window to shape lifelong success. Act now to ensure children have the best start in life through quality early learning.

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Celebrating Head Start Awareness Month

As part of Head Start Awareness Month, our Early/Head Start Network will launch a Child Development Associate® (CDA) program for parents that have children in Start Early and partner sites. The CDA Credential™ is an important credential for early childhood professionals, as obtaining it allows them to take the next step in their career.

We hope to engage with Head Start parents everywhere to elevate their perspectives and gain insights on the best ways to support their children. We know that when teachers and parents are aligned in building a solid foundation, children can thrive.

Join us this October as we celebrate and promote Head Start on social media! Use the #HeadStartAwareness hashtag in your posts to highlight the program.

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Citations

  • Bloom, H. S. and Weiland, C., Quantifying Variation in Head Start Effects on Young Children’s Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Skills Using Data from the National Head Start Impact Study (March 31, 2015).
  • Love, J. M., Kisker, E. E., Ross, C. M., Schochet, P. Z., Brooks-Gunn, J., Paulsell, D., Boller, K., Constantine, J., Vogel, C., Sidle Fuligni, A., Brady-Smith, C. (2002). Making a difference in the lives of infants and toddlers and their families: The impacts of early Head Start. Volumes I-III: Final technical report and appendixes and local contributions to understanding the programs and their impacts. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.

In these tumultuous times, the need for greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is in the news almost every day. One of the best ways to raise tolerant, accepting and empathetic children ready to thrive in life is to start early, incorporating inclusion and anti-bias into early childhood education curriculum for infants, toddlers and their families.

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Danielle Jordan, a school director of Educare Chicago, recently shared the early childhood school’s DEI best practices, starting with the fundamentals.

Teachers at Educare Chicago incorporate songs, storytelling and books into the curriculum. Some of her favorites include:

DEI books for children

This approach to developing a child’s sense of confidence in their personal and social identities (e.g., gender, ethnic and religious) aligns with the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) anti-bias education. As a result, children feel grounded in who they are without a need to be superior to anyone else. The approach also emphasizes a teacher’s capacity to help a child recognize how they are simultaneously different and similar to others, which helps children foster an ability to comfortably and empathetically engage with people from all backgrounds.

We encourage students to share what is distinct about their families, how they celebrate special occasions and what is important to them.

Danielle Jordan, School Director, Educare Chicago
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Educare Chicago student holding diversity collage In a recent activity, children recently made posters showcasing their cultural heritage, as well as their similarities and differences. “The students were able to share and be proud of what makes them unique… your hair may be in ponytails, while my hair is in locks. The simple rule is we would like to treat people fairly and acknowledge that we are different but we’re also the same and need to show each other respect,” Jordan continues.

This focus on respect and appreciation for inclusion is particularly important during this time of racial unrest. “The way that we address the societal environment is by talking about community, family, culture and heritage,” says Jordan.

To help talk about these topics, staff at Educare Chicago have incorporated Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” segment into their curriculum, as well as the book “Sometimes People March” by Tessa Allen.

We are doing exactly what our name says… We are starting early and building foundations that I hope will give the students what they need to go on.

Danielle Jordan, School Director, Educare Chicago
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Educare Chicago teachers also help students learn how to process big emotions such as sadness and anger, while emphasizing that people express feelings in a variety of ways to encourage an appreciation for personality differences. The school’s Wellness Specialists also connect with parents to let them know where their children are from a socioemotional perspective and offer guidance for development.

Intensive family engagement is a core tenet of the school’s approach, meaning the school’s inclusive curriculum also extends to children’s first teachers: their parents and caregivers. Staff provide parents with book recommendations, including those outlined above to help encourage at-home discussions about DEI. There are also parent support groups and a Parent Committee to help parents to build strong relationships with staff and one another.

Jordan has already seen the impact of their work. Recently, students celebrated a very shy classmate for stepping outside his comfort zone to give a presentation to the entire school about his pet snake.

Learn more about how to address race and identity with children by reading our National Racial Day of Healing blog post.

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