Why National Poetry Month is Important for Children

April is National Poetry Month, which may seem silly and perhaps even frivolous with everything else going on in the early childhood education space, but it’s actually quite important.

Started in 1996 by the National Academy of Poets, the stated goal of the month was to:

  • highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • encourage the reading of poems
  • assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms
  • increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and
  • encourage support for poets and poetry.

Poetry often employs the use of rhyme and rhythm – helpful especially to young children still learning to build language and comprehension skills! It also allows children to use their creativity to discuss subjects of interest to them in a fun way that can help them learn to love reading, and can even be used as a great exercise for English language learners.

Some resources and ideas to help you celebrate poetry during National Poetry Month and throughout the year:

April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month

AutismAwarenessMonthAwareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been in the news recently, with more and more advocates and celebrities sharing their stories – whether it’s helpful to the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or not.

But when Jordan Spieth won the Masters championship at Augusta National at the age of 21 last week, tying the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997, Spieth quickly turned from thoughts of his big win to his sister Ellie, who was not able to attend the tournament, and has autism.

“I love having her around. She’s an incredible sister, my biggest supporter. She is somebody who you can watch and then reflect on the big picture of life and understand that all these frustrations in a day, or in a round of golf, are really secondary.

“We wouldn’t have that realization without her.”

It’s that kind of acknowledgement and love that reminds us all of the true purpose of Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month.

During the month of April, we want to take a moment to recognize the unique abilities and strengths of individual children with ASD, and share a few insights and resources from partner organizations.

In 2014, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, announced their partnership with Autism Speaks and other major autism awareness groups. Their campaign, “See Amazing in All Children” aims to reduce the stigma surrounding children with autism by dispelling some of the common misconceptions around autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and sharing quality resources for children and their families.

Autism Speaks offers a Puzzle Piece Project Tool Kit for grades K-12, meant to increase children’s understanding of autism through age-appropriate lesson plans and activities. It even includes samples of frequently asked questions from kids, so you know what to expect and how to respond to the natural curiosity of children around ASD – and we all know how curious our little ones can be!

The Administration for Children and Families has reaffirmed their commitment to individualized learning and development support for all children, including those with ASD, as well as the continuation of individualized, high-quality early learning programs to young children with disabilities through Head Start.

New Report Could Be a Game Changer for the Child Care Workforce

IOM_Birth to 8_hi res cover

IOM (Institute of Medicine) and NRC (National Research Council). 2015. Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

We have long known that adults who interact with young children have the potential to add significant value to their development and overall health and well-being. Much is known about what works, what children need to thrive and what professionals who work with children need to know and be able to do. However, until now, we have not had a blueprint for action to guide us from aspiration to reality. Until now!

Earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) released its long anticipated report “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation”, which, if adopted by local, state and national policymakers, educators, and the early childhood field, could prove to be one of the most important studies of the child care workforce in our nation’s history.

The report, which explores the science of child development and the implications for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8, offers 13 policy recommendations that connect science, practice and policy with a goal of moving us from what “should be” to “what is”.

Noting the challenging nature of strengthening the ECCE workforce due in part to the diverse and often decentralized roles, systems and services, the report emphasizes the importance of bringing local, state, and national leadership together in support of a unified approach. Done correctly, the ECCE workforce improvements will not only create a more cohesive system to support children birth through eight, but also support effective, research-based practices that reinforce quality early care and education for our nation’s youngest learners.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Improving higher education and professional learning for all sectors who work with young children with specific training and learning supports based on professional roles;
  • Strengthening qualification requirements based on knowledge competencies that provide phased, multiyear pathways to transition to a minimum bachelor’s degree requirement; and
  • Developing new approaches for assessing and evaluating professional practice that leads to continuous quality improvements.

The science is clear on this. Children begin learning at birth. The only way to give children the start in life that they deserve is to ensure that the workforce nurturing them is receiving the support it needs to thrive. The IOM/NRC report provides a unique opportunity in this moment in time to let go of the status quo and embrace the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Child Care Aware® of America is actively working at the state, local and national levels to change the conversation and create an environment where we can transform the workforce!

Learn more about the report and create a free account to download the full PDF version for free from the Institute of Medicine website.

Child Care Leaders Address 2015 Child Care Aware® of America Annual Meeting and Conference

Child Care Aware® of America’s (CCAoA) 2015 annual meeting and conference in Washington, D.C. brought together child care providers, CCR&Rs, and leaders from government agencies and the White House to address many issues including Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships, implementation of CCDBG, CCAoA’s strategic planning, and cultural competency in family engagement.

LindaSmith_Barrett

Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), addressed annual meeting attendees. Photo by Steve Barrett.

We were so fortunate to have Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and Rachel Schumacher, Director of the Office of Child Care, join us on day one of our annual meeting! Smith kicked off the events on Monday morning with her opening keynote on opportunities and challenges affecting the child care community and potential changes coming down the road, while Schumacher spoke later that afternoon about CCDBG implications for the early childhood community generally and for CCR&R’s specifically. It was a great discussion with questions from attendees on how these issues would affect their communities.

Day one also included a presentation by Shannon Moodie and Manica Ramos with Child Trends on the report “Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs”. Presenters offered tips and resources on how to engage parents from diverse communities in child care and early learning settings – something many attendees in the audience had questions about and perspectives to share after their presentation.

A panel on Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership included Dr. Cheri Vogel from Mathematica, Steve Rohde from the Maryland Family Network, and Dr. Walter Gilliam of the Child Study Center at Yale University and a CCAoA board member. Panelists discussed the issues and core competencies that support partnerships between Early Head Start and Child Care providers.

For those in attendance on Monday afternoon, Dr. Abby Thorman of Thorman Strategy Group facilitated a discussion to get membership input on CCAoA’s evolving Strategic Plan. Members will have more opportunities to engage – be on the lookout for more opportunities to share your ideas and perspectives as we all look forward to embracing new goals and objectives for the future later this year when we release the final plan.

BODpresidents_Barrett sm

Left to right: current board president L. Carol Scott, Ph.D., CCAoA Executive Director Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., and president-elect Steve Rohde. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Please join us in congratulating Steve Rohde, Deputy Director for Resource and Referral Services of the Maryland Family Network, on his successful election to the position of president-elect of the CCAoA board of directors!

Rohde has been a preschool classroom teacher, a child care center director, a child care specialist with municipal and county licensing programs, a trainer, and a county and state administrator for licensing. He has a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University, and was also adjunct faculty with Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College) for five years.

His expertise and leadership will be a great asset to the Child Care Aware® of America board. We are looking forward to him joining us at the next board meeting in May.

Two of our newest board members Ann McCully and Tonja Rucker were also on-hand for the annual meeting, and participated in the discussion and events. You can learn more about them, and another recent addition to CCAoA board leadership, online.

RobertoRodriguez_Barrett

Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education gave the keynote luncheon address. Photo by Steve Barrett.

Day two of the annual meeting and conference began with Linda K. who spoke about understanding the new landscape of early learning systems during the morning session, with a luncheon keynote from Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President on education.

In his role advising the White House on education and early learning policy, Rodriguez said to attendees, “A child’s zip code should not be a predetermining factor in the opportunities he or she has to grow and succeed.” We at Child Care Aware® of America couldn’t agree more!

In a fantastic exchange of ideas, attendees participated in our first open session, where groups gathered to talk about issues they were most interested in. The open forums then reported out at the closing session on Tuesday afternoon on some of their key takeaways.

If you missed the 2015 annual meeting and conference, we’ve got you covered! Check out our Facebook album for pictures from the event, start to finish.

And be sure to keep an eye out for details on the spring 2016 symposium! Plans are currently in the works for this big event, to be held in Washington, D.C.

Welcome, New Board Members!

New CCAoA board member Ann Duluth.

New CCAoA board member Ann McCully.

Before our 2015 Annual Meeting begins, I’d like to unofficially welcome Child Care Aware® of America’s three newest board members – Ann McCully, Tonja Rucker, and Renée Boynton-Jarrett, M.D., Sc.D.

These three champions bring an extraordinary amount of expertise in childhood development, education, health, and resources to the Child Care Aware® of America board of directors. We’re honored to have them lend their knowledge and leadership to our organization at such a critical time in our country for child care issues.

TonjaRucker

New CCAoA board member Tonja Rucker.

The new board members all will be officially welcomed at the 2015 Annual Meeting in March but you can learn more about their diverse backgrounds and  expertise in our latest press release.

And I hope to see you at the CCAoA Annual Meeting, held in partnership with the National Head Start Association Conference and Expo, March 29-31.

 

National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week

Help Child Care Aware® of America support the movement to declare a National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week (CACFP) in 2015, to help bring awareness to the USDA’s program for adult and child nutrition!

CCAoA is joining with National Child and Adult Food Care Sponsors Association (NCA) to ask President Obama to proclaim the third week in March as National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week. You can join this cause by taking a minute to sign the White House petition.

Making sure underserved children and seniors have access to healthy food options needs to be a top priority for our country – learn more about the USDA-Proposed Meal Patterns for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

And for more information on the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), check out Child Care Aware® of America’s Nutrition Basics!

National Child and Adult Care Food Programs Week_IMG

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks! Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr.

President Obama visits the Sunflower State to Talk about Quality, Affordable Child Care

By: Leadell Ediger, Executive Director, Child Care Aware of Kansas:

When an email from the White House came into my inbox, I paid attention!  That’s the situation I found myself in, in mid-January.  I was delighted to find that Child Care Aware® of Kansas was being offered two tickets to attend the President’s Remarks at the University of Kansas.   It really didn’t take me more than 2 minutes to look at my calendar and send a quick response back to the White House, stating Absolutely!  Much to my surprise, on Wednesday (the day before the President’s visit) we were offered another seven tickets!  Of course I said we’d take them.  Within a matter of one hour, I called the CCR&Rs in Kansas, two child care center directors and one high school teacher to extend the offer.  All 7 people immediately said “YES”!

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

Dean Olson (The Family Conservancy), Elaine Edwards (center director) Deb Crowl (center director), Leadell Ediger (CCR&R Network Director), Cheryl Firsching (Child Start), Amanda Ediger (High school teacher), Angie Saenger (CCR&R Network), Tanya Koehn (CCR&R Network).

From the email from the White House, I learned that there was a specific procedure to picking up the tickets, so off to Lawrence, Kansas, we went on Wednesday afternoon.  The pickup time was between 4 – 6 pm.  We got there at 5 and waited an hour to get our 9 precious tickets.  Much discussion took place because we got a “red” ticket, versus a “green” or a “white” ticket, how close to the front would we actually be?

Thursday morning dawned quite chilly in Lawrence, Kansas but an electric feel was in the air when we snaked our way through the waiting line.   We made arrangements to meet one of our colleagues from the Kansas City area outside the arena where the event was being held; luckily I got his cell phone number just to be safe.  Standing was the name of the game that day, standing outside in the cold, standing for 3 hours inside waiting and standing, applauding, cheering for a short 35 minute window when the President spoke.  What an exciting 35 minutes though!  When the President finally made his entrance, we were within 30 feet of him and had perfect viewing!

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

Front: Deb Crowl, Cheryl Firsching, Leadell Ediger
Middle row: Elaine Edwards, Tanya Koehn, Dean Olson
Back row: Reva Wywadis and Angie Saenger

President Obama strolled in with his shirt sleeves rolled up, ready to go!  It was very obvious, the President knows how to excite a crowd, and he did so by starting off with saying “he’s a Kansas boy”.  This statement got a big roar from the crowd.  Yes, the President has deep roots in Kansas.  He then shared his message, that middle-class economics should be the focus!  This included a healthy discussion about child care!   After listening only days before to the State of the Union address, I knew he had big plans to strengthen child care, but again in Lawrence the President said “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us”, which brought, again, a huge roar from the crowd.  During this short address, I heard the President’s passion for young children and their working families.  His persistence and dedication to wanting to help the middle-class and how much he values and supports, not only early learning, but learning for all!  He showed his impatience to get the job done.  An added bonus for me and something I didn’t expect to see was his delightful humor.

After the speech, the President interacted with the crowd by shaking many hands.  Because we were so close to the stage, before he left the auditorium he shook the hands of four of the nine early childhood folks that went with us!   This clearly will be a day that we’ll remember for years to come.