Childcare and early childhood education experts and advocates want communities, states and the federal government to reimagine approaches to early learning so high-quality, accessible and equitable opportunities are available to working families, they said during a Tuesday virtual working session hosted by New America. While much of the conversation focused on the economic, social and academic benefits of early learning, speakers also strategized about sustainable changes, such as increasing compensation and training for childcare workers and educators; expanding affordable access to programs; and strengthening alignments between early learning systems.
Digital picture books have been a godsend during the pandemic. With libraries shuttered and bookstores a nonessential trip, many parents have downloaded book after book on tablets and smartphones to keep their little ones reading. The technology allowed my daughter to read the Berenstain Bears, a classic picture book series, to a younger cousin over Zoom when a family trip was canceled.
Experts say it’s important for parents to know the basic ideas behind the current methods if they are going to help their kids. Positive parental help could make the difference between students being excited about math or falling behind during the pandemic, said Jennifer Bay-Williams, co-author of “Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally” and professor of education at the University of Louisville. The new approach is actually not all that new. It’s grounded in research going back more than 30 years and is reflected in the Common Core State Standards, which are used in 41 states.
In recent years (think way back to pre-pandemic times), legislation concerning early education had been increasing steadily in number, nuance and sophistication. In fact, from 2015-18 researchers found 2,396 bills, when you add child care legislation as well. With the onset of the pandemic, we saw states rightfully pivoting to triage mode, providing financial relief for critical education supports and leaving behind some of the innovation that was years in the making.