Monday, January 27, 2014

Early Learning Program Helps Low-Income Kids, Caregivers Succeed

HARRISBURG, Pa. - It's been said it takes a village to raise a child, and the YMCA is reaching out to that village through a pilot program aimed at helping neighbors, relatives and babysitters teach young children the skills they need for school. 

According to Rebecca Kelley, national director for the Achievement Gap Initiative with the YMCA of the USA, for many working families, informal caregivers are the most common form of child care, and this program gives them the tools they need to help preschoolers in their care to succeed. 

"And this is really more of a preparation gap, because we find that low-income youth come into kindergarten with some issues related to pre-literacy skills and relationship-building, and this is really important," she said.

Initial results have shown promising gains for kids in the program on several measures of kindergarten readiness, but Kelley said the benefits of a program such as this aren't limited to the children. 

"We have many newcomer families who are part of this, and the caregivers have reported that the language skills that are being developed not only help the child prepare for kindergarten, but it helped them, and it increased their confidence and a willingness for them to learn."

The pilot program is operating in 43 sites nationwide, including Philadelphia, with a focus on under-served communities. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that expanding access to preschool programs in low-income communities is among his top priorities. 

It's estimated that lower-income children enter kindergarten 12 to 18 months behind the average child, particularly in areas where access to federally supported preschool programs such as Head Start is limited.

More information on the program is at

Tom Joseph

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