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Early Bird

Parents as a key to early literacy

'It could be the prelude to every single child being kindergarten-ready.'

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Azadi, a 2021 graduate of Book Harvest’s Book Babies program, talked about the importance of reading in a video shown at Book Harvest’s research briefing Sept. 8, 2021. Photo courtesy of Book Harvest

If we’re not starting early, we’re falling short. This is the thought that enters Ginger Young’s mind when she wakes up in the morning.

Young, executive director of Durham-based nonprofit Book Harvest, shared results earlier this month of a longitudinal study on Book Babies, a home visiting program focused on developing early literacy skills. The study found that parents in the program in Durham and Winston-Salem had stronger reading habits with their children, and that Spanish-speaking children had stronger skills than control groups.

In the last decade, North Carolina has invested millions and, this year, passed a new law to improve third-grade reading proficiency. The law aims to shift pre-K-to-3 educator preparation and knowledge so teachers are familiar with the scientific research on how kids learn to read. But Young says we’re missing the first years of life.

“I routinely wake up in the morning thinking about the fact that 90% of the brain is developed in the first five years, and wondering what we’re doing to make the most of that spectacular window of opportunity,” Young said.

“And I’m haunted by also the notion that we have failed to tap the most potent and amazing resource right within arm’s reach of these children who are developing so quickly and so spectacularly, which is parents themselves.”

Book Babies literacy coaches visit families quarterly during the first five years of life, providing 100 books and a research-backed curricula along the way. The last year is focused on transitioning children to school. More investment in the early years, and research on what works, is necessary, Young said. The Book Babies model is a step in the right direction, she said. “It could be the prelude to every single child being kindergarten-ready.”

Below, don’t miss an update on a council tasked with creating a coordinated early education system in North Carolina, research on the importance of high-quality elementary experiences, and information on operational grants for child care providers.

Early Bird reads: What we’re writing

N.C. council tasked with crafting an early education vision revisits pre-pandemic plans

Though new policies and challenges exist from the pandemic, the council’s task from a 2017 law is the same — coordination across a variety of early learning environments that often do not communicate with one another and have different educator requirements, standards, and governing bodies.

Parent-child reading habits improved in home visiting study

Children’s environments before they reach pre-K or kindergarten play an important role in learning and literacy, said Ginger Young, founder and executive director of Book Harvest, a nonprofit in Durham. A new study of that organization’s literacy-focused home visiting program, Book Babies, has found promising outcomes for parents and children.

Your take, for goodness sake: EdNC perspectives

Perspective | High-quality elementary schools solidify the benefits of NC Pre-K

Researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke share new findings on the importance of high-quality elementary experiences on lasting student gains from NC Pre-K, the state’s preschool program targeted to at-risk 4-year-olds.

“In our new statewide study, we examined a group of children who previously participated in NC Pre-K and a comparison group of peers who did not participate in the program. We tested for skill differences between these two groups at the end of kindergarten — one year after children had completed the program. We found that NC Pre-K graduates outperformed the comparison group, but only in higher-quality elementary schools. The same was not true for children enrolled in average-quality and lower-quality elementary schools.”

In other early learning news: What I’m reading

Research & Resources: Let's talk stabilization grants

Child care providers across the state are still struggling with the pandemic’s realities. On top of that, they’re facing a teacher shortage as early educators find better-paying jobs at grocery stores and fast-food joints.

North Carolina received about $1.3 billion from the national American Rescue Plan to stabilize the industry this year. About $805 million of those funds are for grants to help providers keep their doors open, pay employees, and meet the needs of children and educators. Providers can use the funds for paying rent, facility updates, health and safety training, pandemic-related costs, mental health supports for children and staff, and any goods needed to continue to provide care.

Unlike previous pandemic operational grants, child care providers will have to apply to receive the grants. The application process will open in October, according to the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE).

Licensed child care programs are eligible — including private and nonprofit facilities, faith-based and home-based providers. Programs will need to provide general facility information, staff education and payroll, and monthly revenue and expenses. DCDEE is hosting webinars for providers to learn more in October:

  • Monday, October 4, 2021, 12:00 pm — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2428 117 9467 | Event password: TRAINING
  • Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 2:00 pm — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2431 742 6165 | Event password: TRAINING
  • Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 6:00 pm – Family Child Care Homes — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2423 551 8307 | Event password: TRAINING
  • Saturday, October 9, 2021, 10:00 am — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2436 499 8876 | Event password: TRAINING
  • Monday, October 11, 2021, 12:00 pm — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2429 066 6164 | Event password: TRAINING
  • Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 6:00 pm — Join as an attendee
    • Or join the audio conference only 1-415-655-0003
    • Event number (access code): 2421 505 4148 | Event password: TRAINING
Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.