Creating a Firm Foundation for Families
In Clare Huntington’s (3 September 2014) article in the New York Times, she laments the lack of family support from the government. Childcare is hard to find, family leave is next-to-nonexistent and the current structure of communities makes it hard to connect, all leaving parents of young children isolated and stressed-out. As if having a baby weren’t stressful enough.
Too often these days, it seems that the activity of having children is for rich suburbanites who can afford private medical care and hired nannies. This seems ridiculous, but those that cannot afford support have a tough time adding in activities that will help their children thrive. Making it through another day is an extreme effort.
Agencies in the public sector, including social services, local governments, public libraries and schools, law enforcement and legal resources need to work inter-connectedly to create a web of support for parents. If Women Infants and Children (WIC) agencies could set up parents with Early Literacy materials and information about local library programs and ECL resources for parents, then a message would be created—feeding literacy to your baby is as important to their survival as healthy food. We are here to help.
If law libraries, law enforcement and city governments were able to offer services to provide legal resources and information to families so that they could take full advantage of the support offered to them by the law, then they might avoid the tragedies of family violence and homelessness.
If the local kindergym had free family counselors in attendance, parents could get the emotional support they need. Free quality childcare options should be available for low-income families, especially those with a single income. Libraries should be an information hub to provide detailed information for all these agencies. Leaders of these groups should form a community consortium and meet regularly to discuss the growing needs of all the people they serve.
A parent and caregiver class at the library should be inclusive of all families but focus on needs for new families. I think representatives from a variety of community agencies should be there to explain the services they offer and how to negotiate the paperwork that is required to become a recipient of many of these organizations’ benefits. Being poor and having to prove it can be a full time job for many who are already working full time jobs and being parents. We need to offer simple support to families just applying for support.
Once families get the survival support they need, they can better focus on the variety of needs their young child has, including being sung to and read to. Library programs can encourage the joy of child and caregiver interaction and introduce them to some of the many, many ways that they can participate in their child’s social, emotional and developmental growth.
We need to start with the very basis of need for many families and we need to start right away, at the beginning. “We need to start at Day 1,” says Huntington (2014).
Huntington, C. (3 September, 2014). Help families from day 1. The New York Times. Found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/opinion/help-families-from-day-1.html?_r=2
photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk found at forcechange.com
The Need for Early Childhood Literacy Programming for the Latino Population Living in Poverty in Sonoma County, California
Sonoma County, where I live with my family, rests on the western border of one of the most well known wine-producing regions in the world. These wines are made from grapes grown in vineyards that are worked and attended to by thousands of migrant workers. These workers are frequently Spanish-speaking and sometimes have families with young children. In addition to vineyard workers, the county is also home to many permanent families of Latino or Hispanic backgrounds. According to The Public Policy Institute (2015), 32.6 percent of Latino children lived at or below the poverty line, and 25 percent of the total number of children under the age of five are living in poverty within the state of California. Sonoma County alone measures nearly one in four children living in poverty.
All of this data suggests a large percentage of Latino children under five are living in families who are poor and unable to afford formal preschool programs for their children. Sonoma County organizations need to work together to make early literacy resources accessible to Latino families. Schools, libraries, social services, charitable organizations, and day labor centers need to construct a network of support to make sure that families are aware of these resources and encouraged to participate in programs on a regular basis. This means that programs need to be free, fun, accessible, inclusive and rewarding. We want families to continue to participate and build a community for themselves and with the larger Sonoma County community as well.
If young children do not have adequate early childhood literacy skills when they enter kindergarten, they will struggle to learn at prescribed levels. Children who don’t develop literacy skills early on will continue to struggle in school. One third of children in this country do not have even the reading skills to complete their homework in fourth grade. (National Institute for Literacy, 2009). Sonoma County social and public services need to join forces to educate families of young children how to introduce early literacy skills into daily life and then provide them with simple materials and resources to create that necessary home literacy environment.
Earlier this year, Jung et.al (2016) published a study about Latino children in early childhood education programs that were taught within the context of family literacy programs. The study was created with the hope that practitioners could better understand the best ways to teach early childhood literacy skills to Latino families. Previous literature cited notes that “Latino children are significantly behind their peers in early literacy skills at kindergarten entry and continue to lag behind with age” (Jung, et. al, 2016; National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics, 2007).
Therefore, it is essential that Sonoma County organizations properly understand the reason for this lag and address it with free and accessible programs to increase early literacy skills and help the next generation succeed in school from the beginning.
Note: This is an excerpt from a research proposal I originally wrote for my Info 285 Research Methods class with Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom at SJSU’s School of Information.
Bohn, S., Danielson, C. & Bandy, M. (December, 2015). Just the facts: Poverty in California. Public Policy Institute.Found at: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=261 and http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=721
Jung, Y., Zuniga, S., Howes, C., Jeon, H., Parrish, D., Quick, H., Manship, K. & Hauser, A. (2016). Improving Latino children’s early language and literacy development: key features of early childhood education within family literacy programs, Early Child Development and Care, 186(6), 845-862, DOI:10.1080/03004430.2015.1062374
National Institute for Literacy (2009). Early beginnings: Early literacy knowledge and instruction.
National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics. (2007). Expanding and improving early education for Hispanics: Main report. Retrieved from: http://www.wrfoundation.org/media/1360/natltaskforceece_resources.pdf