New! - National Head Start Association

New! - National Head Start Association




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VOL. XXII No. 2 Back-to-School 2008


Supporting Learning

for All Children



Discover PreschoolFirst

• Integrated Head Start Child Outcomes simplify play-based

learning and assessment

• Early Head Start support smooths transitions to Head Start

• Choose from 3,200 theme-based, age-appropriate activities

• Parent content in Spanish helps involve Hispanic families

• Meaningful progress reports save time

FREE Web Tour and Trial! Call 1-866-584-2900

or visit


For teachers. For families. For excellence.


Book Sharing .....................................18

Promoting early literacy, helping families overcome barriers

Inclusive Literacy Lessons for All! .....26

Building a solid foundation

Looking to the Future .......................38

e promise and pitfalls of Head Start reauthorization

VOL. XXII No. 2 Back-to-School 2008


Back-to-School 2008 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES 1





more features

Science and Preschool .......................44

A Naturally Perfect Combination

Singing Our Way Through the Day ....48

VOL. XXII No. 2 Back-to-School 2008


Cover photograph by Julie Antoniou





VOL. XXII No. 2 Back-to-School 2008

News You Can Use ................................. 6

Nourishing Young Minds

and Bodies ........................................ 8

Men and Children ............................... 12

Leading the Way ................................. 16

Young Ones ......................................... 56

Science for Young Explorers .............. 60

Write On! ............................................. 64

also inside

Child Health Talk ........................................... 33

Advertisers Index .......................................... 67

Meetings and Events ..................................... 68


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eceiving Children and Families VOl. XXi no. 2 Back-to-school 2008

To receive your individual copy of

the magazine, go to and

print a membership application or call

(703) 739-0875 to have a membership

application sent to you. Mail the completed

application with a check to NHSA, P.O. Box

890080, Charlotte, NC 28289-0080. In addition

to Children and Families, you’ll also

receive the following benefits: membership to the National Head

Start Association; discounts on NHSA publications, products, and

conferences; representation in NHSA’s advocacy efforts; NHSA

News; Legislative Update; Linking the Pieces Together; and more.

sharing the information

Articles may be photocopied or reprinted

in nonprofit publications without written

permission from NHSA. All reprints must

credit the magazine as follows: “Reprinted

from the issue of Children and

Families with permission from the National

Head Start Association.” Send copies of all

reprints to Children and Families, Reprint Samples, 1651 Prince St.,

Alexandria, VA 22314.

Taking Us with You

If you’re moving and want to continue receiving Children and

Families, be sure to cut out and correct the mailing address printed

on the back of the magazine. Send your correct address to the

National Head Start Association, Membership Change of Address,

1651 Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Include any new phone and

fax numbers, too.

Contacting nhsa

For general information about the National Head Start Association, visit

us at or call (703) 739-0875 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST,

Monday through Friday. For help in a specific area, refer to the following

phone list:

Topic Contact Direct phone number

Children and Families (advertising) Julie Antoniou (703) 739-7561

Children and Families (editorial) Julie Antoniou (703) 739-7561

Conferences Lori Burke (703) 739-7557

Legislative Hotline (703) 739-0879

Legislative issues Luis Burguillo (703) 739-7560

Membership questions or renewal (703) 739-0875

NHSA News Julie Antoniou (703) 739-7561

Partnerships Michael McGrady (703) 739-7553

Publications or products (information) (703) 739-0875

Publications or products (to order) Toll free service (800) 687-5044

Research Ben Allen (703) 739-7558

Scholarships and awards (703) 739-0875

Web site Gregg Porter (703) 739-7556

Children and Families is printed using soy inks on recycled paper.

Children and Families Back-to-School 2008

Children and Families (ISSN 1091-7578) is published three times a year by the

National Head Start Association (NHSA) to support Head Start programs, directors,

staff, parents, and volunteers.

A nonprofit membership organization, NHSA is the only national association

dedicated exclusively to promoting and protecting the Head Start program. The association

advocates on behalf of America’s low-income children and families; holds national

training conferences; publishes books, periodicals, and resource guides; maintains a

legislative hotline; and offers training programs through the National Head Start Association

Academy and the HeadsUp! satellite network.

NHSA does not accept responsibility for statements of fact or opinion that appear in

Children and Families. Nor does it endorse products or services advertised herein.

Advertisers and advertising agencies assume liability for all content of advertisements.

nhsa Officers

Ron Herndon


Janis Santos

Vice Chairperson

Joan Scales


Karen Jones


National Head Start Association

1651 Prince Street • Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 739-0875 • Fax: (703) 739-0878

Editor Julie Antoniou

Design Estasi Design Associates

Submissions. Children and Families encourages members of the Head Start community

and experts from relevant fields to submit articles. Download a copy of the

editorial guidelines at in the Children and Families section of the

Web site, or request a copy by calling (703) 739-7561 or sending an e-mail to

Advertising. Children and Families offers a full range of advertising services.

To obtain a media kit, call Julie Antoniou at (703) 739-7561 or visit

nhsa staff

Michael McGrady

Interim Executive Director

Ben Allen

Director, Research

and Evaluation

Julie Antoniou

Editor, Children and


Luis Burguillo

Director, Government


Lori Burke

Director, Professional


Dariel Creshaw

Director, Office Operations

Patty Gray

Deputy Fiscal Director

Charlene Hutchinson


Charisse Lassiter

Information Specialist

Ruby Lewis

Meeting Manager

Tiereny Lloyd

Special Project Coordinator

Gregg Porter

Director, Technology

Angela Smith

Associate Director,

Research and Evaluation

Carleen Wallington-


Program Development




Building a Brighter Future for Children...

One Leader at a Time

The components of high-quality early care and education...

well-educated teachers, knowledgeable about child development

adequate and consistent staffing to ensure continuity in care

ongoing supervision, providing continuous support for professional development

clear educational goals that address children’s individual strengths and needs

a family focus, stressing involvement both within and beyond the center

a comprehensive curriculum geared to the developmental needs of young children

systematic evaluation and benchmarking of progress to improve practice

...all depend on strong program leadership.

The go-to source for training, resources, and technical assistance.

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Back-to-School 2008 Children and Families



• Real discretionary spending on children has declined by more than 6

percent since 2004, while at the same time all other non-defense

discretionary spending has increased by more than 8 percent.

To view or download a copy of Children’s Budget 2008, go to


Policy Brief: Challenging

Behaviors and the Role of

Preschool Education

Find out if there a rise in challenging behaviors

among young children in early care

and education, and whether preschool can

provide positive experiences that can reduce

the rates of challenging behaviors by

reading the new NIEER policy brief, written

by Lisa A. McCabe and Ellen C. Frede.

To view the policy brief, go to http://nieer.


The O ce of the Surgeon

General Launches

New Web Page

e O ce of the Surgeon General,

under the leadership of Rear Admiral

Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., has

launched a new Web resource to

89 Percent of Children’s

help adults improve children’s eat-

Food Products Provide Poor

ing and physical activity habits. e

Nutritional Quality, Study

resource on the Surgeon General’s


Web site highlights “Healthy Youth for a

Most children’s foods provide poor

Healthy Future,” the U.S. Department of Health

nutritional quality despite packaging

and Human Services’ (HHS) childhood overweight and obesity preven-

claims and healthy images, which can be

tion initiative. e initiative addresses childhood overweight and obesity prevention misleading to parents, according to a Ca-

by helping kids stay active, encouraging healthy eating habits, and promoting healthy nadian study. Professor Charlene Elliott


reviewed 367 products. 70 percent of the

e Web site is located at e site products had higher than recommended

also includes information on all of the other HHS obesity prevention programs and sugar levels, 23 percent had high fat


levels and 17 percent had high salt levels.

Elliott found that nine out of 10 regular

U.S. Bancorp Foundation New First Focus Report Shows food items aimed speci cally at children


Kids Getting a Mere One Penny have a poor nutritional content because

U.S. Bancorp makes grants available to of Every New Federal Dollar

of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium. e

support community programs that re- First Focus recently released Children’s Budget study was published in the July issue of

spect the diversity of local communities 2008, a comprehensive guide to federal spending the journal Obesity Reviews.

and help nonpro ts organizations meet on children. e book includes information on

Source: ScienceDaily (

speci c needs within each community. the more than 180 federally funded programs

e Foundation’s funding priorities aimed at enhancing the well-being of our nation’s children.

include initiatives aimed at increasing

Key ndings published in Children’s Budget 2008 include the following:

or supporting self-su ciency, economic • For the past ve years, only one penny of every new, real non-defense

development, human services, educa- dollar spent by the federal government has gone to children and children’s

tional opportunities for low-income programs.

and at-risk students, and access to affordable

housing. Applications accepted

on an ongoing basis. For more information,

including application guidelines,



• Spending on children makes up only 10 percent of the entire non-defense


• e overall share of federal, non-defense spending going to children’s

programs has dropped by 10 percent over the past ve years.


New on the Bookshelf

Early Literacy in Action, by Betty H. Bunce

List price: $54.95

Publisher: Brookes Publishing Company

ISBN: 978-1-55766-922-3

Designed to enhance young children’s

language skills with a proven play-focused

preschool curriculum that’s drawn from more

than 20 years of eld testing and outcomes.

is exible program is a practical and signi

cantly expanded follow-up to the bestselling

Building a Language Focused Curriculum

for the Preschool Classroom.

Child Well-Being Index Special Focus Report

e Foundation for Child Development

has initiated the development of the rst

comprehensive report on the overall health,

education, well-being, and quality of life

of America’s youngest children — from

birth through 11 years old. e report titled

Trends in Infancy/Early Childhood and

Middle Childhood Well-Being, 1994-2006

was released on April 25. It presents a wideranging

picture of how children in their

rst decade of life are faring in the United

States and is the rst to track and compare

child well-being across three primary stages

of development — early childhood, middle

childhood, and adolescence using the Child

Well-Being Index (CWI). Here are a few

conclusions highlighted in the report:

• Overall improvements in the well-being

index are re ected across all age groups.

Each age group follows very similar

positive trends from 1994-2002.

• e Health Domain overall is on a dramatic

decline, dragged down by rising

obesity rates and the number of babies

born at low birth weight. Research has

linked the latter to an increase in delayed

childbearing among women and the

use of fertility drugs that make multiple

births with lower birth weights more

likely. e prevalence of obesity among

children ages 6-11 is nearly four times

what it was in the 1960s; for children

ages 2-5, it is three times more.

• Some areas of health show steady improvement,

driven by declining infant

and child death rates (attributed to better

prenatal and health care, nutrition, and

seat-belt laws), rates of mothers smoking

during pregnancy, blood lead poisoning

and increased vaccinations.

• Safety is on the rise. e rate of children

from birth to 11 who are victims of

homicide has decreased dramatically; for

children ages 6-11, that number has been

cut in half.

• Educational attainment is also on the

rise. is domain is showing good

progress driven by the dramatic increase

in the number of children ages 4-6 enrolling

in full-day kindergarten. What’s

more, the report found that more parents

are reading to their children daily and

setting rules for TV watching.

• Family economic well-being is likely to

decline in years ahead. While this indicator

has been holding steady, if trends in

job loss, the housing nance crisis, and

rising in ation that have characterized

2007 to the present day persist, they are

likely to drive down this key economic

indicator for children of all ages.

To view the report in its entirety, go

to and type in the

report’s title in the search option.

Preschool Kids Do Better

When They Talk To Themselves,

Research Shows

Parents should not worry when their preschoolers

talk to themselves; in fact, they

should encourage it, says Adam Winsler, an

associate professor of psychology at George

Mason University. His recent study Private

Speech and Executive Functioning among

High-Functioning Children with Autistic

Spectrum Disorders, published in Early

Childhood Research Quarterly, showed that

5-year-olds do better on motor tasks when

they talk to themselves out loud (either

spontaneously or when told to do so by an

adult) than when they are silent.

Young children o en talk to themselves

as they go about their daily activities,

and parents and teachers shouldn’t think of

this as weird or bad,” says Winsler. “On the

contrary, they should listen to the private

speech of kids. It’s a fantastic window into

the minds of children.”

e study also showed that children

with behavioral problems (such as those

diagnosed with Attention De cit Hyperactivity

Disorder, or ADHD) tend to talk

to themselves more o en than children

without signs of behavior problems. “Given

that kids with behavior concerns need more

direction and control from adults, teachers

may unnecessarily ask children to be quiet

in classrooms out of fear that such speech

coming from di cult-to-manage kids will

lead to problem behavior,” says Winsler.

“Yet non-disruptive private speech would

actually help these children as they develop.

erefore, teacher training and professional

development e orts should suggest that

teachers increase their tolerance level for

this kind of private speech.”

Winsler says that private speech is

very common and perfectly normal among

children between the ages of 2 and 5. As

children begin talking to themselves, their

communication skills with the outside

world improve.

Source: ScienceDaily (


Nourishing Nourishing Young Young

Minds Minds and Bodies Bodies


A World of Di erence

How family meals a ect the health and well-being of children

by Jennifer Brosnahan

I am thrilled to present to you a new

addition to Children and Families — a

column focused entirely on addressing

nutrition matters for young children.

The main purpose of this new column

will be to help keep you informed on

the latest healthy eating guidelines

for little ones and to provide practical

tips, age-appropriate meal and snack

activities, and fun, inexpensive recipes

that can be used in the classroom and

shared with families.

Proper nutrition really does make a

world of di erence — and not just because

childhood obesity rates have soared

to record-highs or because low-income

individuals and minorities tend to have a

higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension,

and cardiovascular disease. Consuming

adequate energy and nutrients is vital for

infants, toddlers, and preschoolers because

it enhances their attention and ability to

learn and allows them to achieve their full

developmental potential.

Head Start’s role in enhancing the

nutritional health of children can’t be overstated.

Daily meals and snacks provided

by Head Start supply essential energy and

nutrients that children may not otherwise

receive at home because of a family’s

nancial constraints or other factors. Head

Start also supports the nutritional well-being

of children in another important but

o en overlooked way: through the o ering

of family-style meals. Life-long food

habits are formed during the toddler and

preschool years. erefore by providing a

consistent, nurturing meal environment,

Head Start programs are helping children

across the nation develop healthy attitudes

toward food and eating. And the formation

of positive eating attitudes, in turn, lowers

risk of future weight and health problems.

The fundamentals of nutrition

Because Head Start programs are encouraged

to follow best practices for the ideal

family meal setting, I thought we’d start

by reviewing some important guidelines

for creating a nurturing atmosphere — one

that enhances feeding and social skills, fos-


Meal preparation jobs for young children

Remember to have children wash their hands before working with or eating food,

and be sure to provide positive supervision at all times. Here is a list of ageappropriate

meal preparation activities for children. (These activities may need

to be modi ed for children with special needs.)

2-year-olds can…

• Wipe tables with a wet sponge.

• Tear salad greens/place greens in

a bowl.

• Break o pieces of cauli ower.

• Snap green beans.

• Play with utensils.

• Bring ingredients from one place

to another.

3-year-olds can …

• Wipe tables with wet cloth.

• Pour liquids (mark drinking glass with

rubber band to indicate when to stop


• Mix and stir ingredients. (Tip: Place

a damp cloth under the bowl to prevent

it from slipping.)

• Shake liquids in a covered container.

ters positive relationships with food, and

encourages healthful eating in children.

• Recipe for success: Make meals an important

part of the program day. Be sure

to help children settle down for eating

and then allow plenty of time for meals.

• Boost skills and food acceptance:

Whenever possible, involve little helpers

in the preparation of meals and snacks.

Involving children in meal preparation

gives them the opportunity to develop

useful skills, increase their knowledge

about food and nutrition, and helps

them develop a sense of responsibility.

Children also enjoy being able to help

4-year-old can …

• Peel hard-cooked eggs.

• Shuck corn.

• Manually juice oranges or other citrus


• Spread peanut butter and other soft


• Set the table.

5-year-olds can …

• Measure ingredients.

• Slice a banana with a dull plastic knife.

• Crack raw eggs.

• Use an eggbeater.

• Grate carrots with an adult’s help.

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Nourishing Nourishing Young Young




Minds Minds and Bodies Bodies d

others. Another bonus: they are more

likely to taste and eat the fruits of their

labor. (See examples of age-appropriate

food preparation jobs in the sidebar.)

• All you need is one: Just one grown-up

sitting with children at the table during

meals embodies a true family atmosphere

that many children do not receive

at home on a regular basis. When parents

do come in for a visit, however, be sure to

invite them to stay through mealtime.

• Encourage good manners: Use meals

as an opportunity to work on etiquette

skills. Allow children to pass food to

others and to say please or yes, and

Fun food books for young children

An Orange in January, by Dianna H.

Aston (Penguin Books, 2007).

Banana! by Jonathan Allen (Sterling

Publishing, 2006).

Breakfast Time! by Lisa Campbell-Ernst

(Blue Apple Books, 2006).

Eating the Alphabet, by Lois Ehlert

(Harcourt Children’s Books, 1996).

Just Enough Carrots, by Stuart J. Murphy

(HarperCollins, Publisher, 1997).

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the

World, by Beatrice Hollyer (Henry Holt

and Company, 2004).

Lunch, by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt

and Company, 1992).

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace

Fleming (Simon & Schuster Children’s

Publishing, 2002).

My Very First Book of Food, by Eric Carle

(Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007).

The Talking Vegetables, by Won-Ldy Paye

and Margaret H. Lippert (Henry Holt &

Company, 2006).

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

(Penguin Young Readers Group, 1994).

Too Many Pears, by Jackie French and

Bruce Whatley (Star Bright Books, 2003)

Watermelon Wishes, by Lisa Moser

(Houghton Mi in Company, 2006).


Nourishing Nourishing Young Young

Minds Minds and Bodies Bodies

thank you or no, thank you. (Quick

tip: Keep a towel tucked in your pocket

during every meal for quick clean-up

when spills do occur. By being prepared,

messes will be less stressful and cause

less of an interruption or distraction.)

• Walk the walk: Model healthy habits

by consuming nutritious foods with the

children. Young children are amazingly

observant, and although this strategy

might not seem to work right away, it

will help shape their attitudes and habits

in the long-run. Ideally, teachers should

eat the same foods that’s made available

Fun snack and meal activities


What you need:

1. Sliced soft fruit (strawberries,

grapes, bananas, blueberries,


2. Cheese cubes (mozzarella and


3. Blunt toothpicks

4. Bowl for each child

Let children slide three or four pieces

of fruit and cheese in any combination

they choose onto toothpicks. Watch

the delight of your little chefs as they

assemble and eat their own tasty


Do you have an idea for a future nutrition topic? Is there a

particular issue pertaining to nutrition that you would like to

learn more about? If so, please e-mail your suggestions to

to the children for snacks and lunch. If

that is not possible, however, they are

encouraged to at least include a piece of

fruit or vegetable with their own lunch

and milk or water to drink.

• Perfect timing: Schedule enough time

between snacks and meals (about two to

three hours) to allow children to work up

an appetite. But also keep in mind that

young children will still eat less on some

days and more on others. Remember that

appetites usually coincide with growth

patterns, which tend to slow down a bit

during the preschool years.

Mini Pizzas

What you need:

1. English mu ns

2. Pizza sauce

3. Grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

4. Turkey pepperoni

5. Chopped and sliced green pepper

6. Large cookie sheet

7. Paper plates

Toast the English mu ns. Place toasted

“pizza crusts” on paper plate and let the

children top them with the toppings of

their choice. Then broil the mini pizzas

in the oven on a large cookie sheet until

the cheese is melted. Cool for ve minutes.

Have the children rewash hands

and help set table while the pizzas cook

and cool.

• Respect children’s satiety signals.

Research reveals that as long as regular

meals and snacks are provided each day,

small children are born with the ability

to know how much to eat to grow into

the body that is right for them. is

natural ability to sense when they’ve

eaten enough food is undermined when

a caregiver or teacher regularly pressures

a child to eat more or less than the child

wants to. e risk of weight problems

and eating disorders may increase

as a result. Respond appropriately to

children’s internal cues by allowing them

to decide how much to eat from the food

that is made available. Examples of outside

pressures include persuading children

to eat ve more bites or withholding

dessert until they nish their vegetables.

• Try, try again — but don’t pressure:

Most children are naturally reluctant to

try new foods. While many programs

o er a healthy variety of good-tasting

fare, children may grow up eating different

cuisine at home. Children should

be encouraged to eat at least one bite,

but if they continue to decline, respect

their decision and be patient. It’s normal

for children to be cautious, and it may

take at least 10 exposures before they are

ready to even try a new food.

• Keep it simple: Refrain from referring

to foods as either good or bad, and

avoid nutrition rules such as “you must

eat three vegetable servings each day.”

10 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


Toddlers and preschoolers just aren’t

able to fully understand nutrition “laws,”

so these rules only make mealtimes

less enjoyable. Instead, focus on giving

children plenty of other opportunities

to learn about food during story time

and through hands-on food preparation


By implementing the guidelines

above in your the Head Start classroom,

you will help promote a mutual respect

between you and the children in your class,

make meals more enjoyable, and, above

all, encourage the development of life-long

healthful eating.

Jennifer Brosnahan, MPH, RD, has extensive

experience counseling families on raising healthy

eaters and addressing feeding issues and concerns in

children. She also has previous experience improving

the nutritional status of mothers and children

participating in the Women, Infants, and Children

(WIC) program. Brosnahan currently works as

senior research dietitian for Rippe Lifestyle Institute

in Celebration, Florida, where she conducts research

related to chronic disease prevention and lifestyle

medicine. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with

her husband, Brian, and her very active children,

Alex and Emory. To contact Brosnahan, e-mail

Resources for early

childhood professionals

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Nourishing Nourishing Young Young




Minds Minds and Bodies Bodies d

• Building Mealtime Environments and

Relationships: An Inventory for Feeding

Young Children in Group Settings,

available online at


• Ellyn Satter Associates’ Child Care

Feeding Policy, available online at$spindb.


• Family Fun Super Snacks, by Deanna

F. Cook (Disney Press, 2004).

• Food ABC: An Alphabet Book, by

Amanda Doering Tourville (Coughlan

Publishing, 2004).

• Meals without Squeals: Child Care

Feeding Guide & Cookbook, 3rd Edition,

by Christine Berman and Jackie

Fromer (Bull Publishing Company,


• Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,

by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson

(Ten Speed Press, 1994).


“Appetite and Eating Behavior in

Children,” by L.L. Birch and J.A. Fisher

(Pediatric Clinic North American, 42,


Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and

Good Sense, by Ellyn Satter (Bull Publishing

Company, 2000).

“Food Intake Regulation in Children,

Fat, and Sugar substitutes, and Intake,”

by L.L. Birch, J.O. Fisher (Annals

of the NY Academy of Sciences, 819,


“Preschoolers’ Food Handling Skills

Motor Development,” by Ann A.

Hertzler, (Virginia Cooperative Extension,


Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family,

by Ellyn Satter (Kelsey Press, 1999).

“Toddler and Preschooler Nutrition,”

written by N.H. Wooldridge and published

in Nutrition Through the Life

Cycle (Wadsworth Group, 2002).





Reauthorizing Head Start

Father Involvement

by J. Michael Hall

Over the past several years, there has been a great push to involve fathers in Head

Start programs. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in this work almost

since it began as an initiative. During that time, I’ve seen — and been a part

of — some great programs as well as a few mis res. While our past e orts were

certainly noble and sincere, we need to continue to assess what we’ve been doing,

what’s worked, and where we can improve.

Changing our mentality

As we started working with fathers, we all knew that many men, particularly men in lowincome

environments, had some personal issues that needed to be addressed. Unemployment,

criminal records, lack of education, and other concerns, led us to try to help men

become better men. While this is a good endeavor, our focus on these concerns led us to

build many of our fatherhood e orts from a de cit-based mentality. In other words, we

felt like we had to completely “ x” a man before he could become a good father. Addressing

the issues that can hinder a father’s involvement should be part of the process, but not

all of those issues are present in all of our Head Start fathers and not all of those issues

keep men from helping their children. Many men have resisted our e orts because men,

as a group, tend to be more competency-based and if you continue to tell a man what he is

doing wrong, he will not stay around long enough for you tell him what he can do and is

doing right.

It’s time for us to re-focus our programs

and create a strength-based model

in which we spend most of our time working

with men on what they should do or

already do that bene t their children. I’ve

found from my work with thousands of

fathers that once we tell men what they can

do for their children, they not only understand

what they are doing right but they

also become more motivated to change the

de cits in their lives. Focusing heavily on

de cits can be defeating and rarely motivates

fathers to work on their strengths,


Changing our measurement

Typically when you ask Head Start grantees

about their fatherhood programs, they im-




mediately begin talking about numbers and

events. However, attendance numbers should

not be our focal point. Our earliest e orts

were about getting more and more men to

attend, but once that became our goal, we

lost our place in this work. By o ering door

prizes, trying to appeal to what we thought

men wanted, and allowing our own bias to

stereotype what men would and would not

want to do, we built programs that focused

on getting men to attend. Unfortunately,

this was a great adventure in missing the

point. Getting men to attend is easy. Just ask

any business that is trying to appeal to men.

When we entice men with “sports, tools,

and barbecues” we may experience success

in terms of attendance but not in terms of

outcomes. Basketball tournaments, major




sporting events, door prizes, and mounds of

food are not only unnecessary, these things

do little to help men become better fathers.

Fellowship is the easy part — it’s father

development that takes some work.

We must begin to develop fatherhood

program goals that can be measured in

terms of child outcomes. While I think it is

noble to help men become better men and

I think fun events are terri c, Head Start’s

mission isn’t going to be accomplished by

primarily focusing on attracting or helping

men. e primary focus needs to be on

improving child outcomes, period. Head

Start programs do a great job of strengthening

families and helping parents and other

caregivers acquire important skills. But the

fundamental purpose behind those e orts

is to improve child outcomes. If we are

helping men nd employment or develop

job skills, it should be as a way of improving

child outcomes. If our father involvement

e orts are not helping children cognitively,

behaviorally, or socially, we need to change

our e orts. is can be di cult — particularly

considering the many challenges a

lot of these fathers face. However, we must

stay true to Head Start’s mission in all of

our e orts. Father involvement is not an


Changing our methods

As we’ve seen over the past 10 years, the

families in Head Start are becoming

increasingly diverse. Many programs are

doing an outstanding job of weaving all of

the cultures and ethnicities into the fabric

of Head Start. We must make sure that

we’re also doing the same with our father

involvement e orts.

rough my work, I’ve concluded that

programs must have separate, stand-alone

father-child programs in order to work

with fathers. Initially, family and parent

programs are attended almost exclusively

by mothers. By having father-speci c

programs, we have more men attend and

we can then work with them in a more

e ective manner. ese father-speci c programs

should not only have positive child

outcomes as their goal but must also be

structured in a way that helps weave men

and fathers back into the regular fabric of

the Head Start program. We need the entire

family to support their children and their


I’ve seen many programs that have

been very successful with their father

involvement e orts, but then they either

begin to focus almost all of their resources

and e orts on fathers, inadvertently ne-

What do we do?

I am always being asked the same

questions during father involvement


• How do we get fathers to attend?

• What do we do with them once

we get them?

• How do we keep them?

Here is what we’ve found works

in Head Start.

How do we get fathers?

Use the children to help you

attract fathers.

The best way to involve fathers in the lives

of the children is to involve them in the

lives of their children. Everything that we

do with fathers is a father-child event. All

of your activities should be focused on

building a stronger relationship between

the father and the child. By making it a “kid

event,” the children will do most of your

promotional work and the fathers are more

apt to attend if they know they’ll be spending

time with their child.

Give them time.

Fathers need advance notice so they can

schedule time o from work and make

other arrangements. We suggest giving at

least one month’s notice to inform fathers

of an upcoming event and then providing

them with all of the information they

need (date, time, location, and so on) two

weeks before the event. The day before

a morning event, we also place stickers

on every child as they leave for the day to

remind fathers and mothers of the event.

We’ve found that fathers will attend if we

communicate well with them.


and Children

What do we do with fathers?

Focus on fun.

Anyone who’s attended a Strong Fathers-

Strong Families fatherhood training knows

that we believe in fun! We also have the

following three the three rules for e ective

father involvement programs. Programs

must be…

1. Interactive: Interactive between the

father and child and between all of

the fathers in attendance.

2. Relational: Fathers need to be able to

relate to their child and other fathers.

3. Relevant: Because they are fathers,

they have limited time and resources.

Do not waste either. Make sure that

your event has a clear purpose and

provides information that helps a man

be a better father.

Speak to them as men and fathers.

When a father attends a father involvement

program with their child, they’re

there because they love their child, they

want to learn more about being a father or

more about their own child, or they attend

out of duty. Celebrate all of those reasons

and then work with them. Many men have

never had anyone recognize and talk to

them about their value; often just by telling

them, they can make great strides in their

e orts to be more involved.

How do we keep them?

Remain focused on the child.

Men attend programs because their

children invite them. They attend programs

because they feel safe and honored

for their e orts (not their perfection). By

always staying focused on child outcomes,

your fathers will see the purpose in attending

and participating. Be careful not to veer

into “repair mode” where you begin to

stray back into a de cit model.



and Children







glecting the mothers, or they do not try to

bring the fathers into “regular” Head Start

programming (parent meetings, policy

councils, and so on). Programs should keep

in mind that a major goal of father involvement

should be to better involve fathers in

all aspects of the Head Start program.

I’ve seen what can be accomplished

for children when father involvement

programs are strength-based, focused on

outcome, and planned with the bigger

picture of whole family involvement in

mind. Because of the incredibly positive

outcomes that can result, this work must be

done — and it must be done using the most

e ective and successful strategies. We’ve

learned a lot of important lessons along

the way and we’ve a ected a lot of young

lives, so let’s continue to improve on those

e orts.




J. Michael Hall, M.Ed., executive director of

Strong Fathers-Strong Families, is the father

of two sons and the husband to a wonderful

third-grade teacher. He has worked as a special

education teacher, a teacher of the gi ed and

talented, and an intermediate and middle school

principal. A er realizing that he was spending

more time raising other people children than his

own, he le the principalship and soon became

an advocate for stronger parent and father

involvement in public education. As an educator,

speaker and founder of Strong Fathers-Strong

Families, he has presented to more than 30,000

fathers and parents at local schools, Head Starts,

and regional and national conferences.

Strong Fathers-Strong Families works with

Head Start programs, public schools, churches,

and other organizations to improve the educational

environment in order that men may

become more involved in the lives of their children.

Strong Fathers-Strong Families plans and

facilitates events at the campus, organizational,

and community level to bring men together with

their children in the presence of other men to

discover their true strength as fathers. To learn

more, go to

Phone: 1.800.558.9595 /

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the Way



Building Connections between Cultures

by Barbara Volpe

Whether they are located in a small rural

community or a big city, Head Start

program directors are seeking culturally,

linguistically, and racially diverse

sta to work with children and families.

In the past decade, Head Start programs

have seen a signi cant increase

in culturally and linguistically diverse

families enroll in their programs. This

shift in population re ects what is happening

across the nation.

Hiring sta who re ect the racial, cultural,

and linguistic makeup of the families

in your program supports children’s

healthy development, strengthens connections

with families, and ful lls the Head

Start program performance standards.

But hiring diverse sta is just the rst step.

As a director you also want to ensure that

the diverse sta members you hire remain

committed to your program. Implementing

practices that ensure sta retention

is a crucial step in this e ort.

Extra thought and care need to be

given when helping new sta members

acclimate to your center. is is particularly

important when your new teachers or

support sta members are from a di erent

racial or cultural background than

your current sta . Misunderstandings and

con ict can occur when people interact

with cultures that are di erent from their

own. Teachers and support sta members

whose cultural background align with

the dominant U.S. culture (middle class,

European-American descent) may not realize

the role culture plays in shaping values,

beliefs, practices, and behaviors in their

everyday life. As a leader in your program,

it is important that you also develop an

understanding of your own and of others’

culture in order to work e ectively with the

diverse sta in your program.

What is culture?

Culture encompasses the full range of

learned human behavior patterns that are

passed down from generation to generation.

Values, belief systems, everyday activities,

and goals are de ned by our culture. Our

cultural background a ects our interactions

with the sta , children, and families

in our programs. It a ects our ability to

work as a team and our reactions when differences

of opinion occur or con ict arises.

Understanding the nuances of di erent cultural

backgrounds helps us understand that

our viewpoint is not the only valid perspective

that exists. Rather, there are multiple

viewpoints, and each one is a ected by the

cultural lens one is looking through.

Even though our cultural beliefs are

a powerful in uence in our lives, they are

o en invisible to others until a cultural

clash occurs. e in uence of culture has

been compared to the tip of an iceberg

where only 5 percent of the ice is visible.

While the remaining 95 percent may not be

as visible, it is as signi cant and should not

be discounted.

Think about your own culture

When you take time to re ect on your

own culture, you quickly realize how it

has shaped your beliefs, values, and expectations

of childrearing practices.

It determines how you de ne family and

what your expectations are for families.

Identifying your own culturally based

beliefs, values, and behaviors will help

you determine when a misunderstanding

is more than just the result of miscommunication

and is instead due to a deeper

cultural con ict. Here are some things to

think about:

• What celebrations, rituals, and holidays

did you celebrate with your family?

• What were some traditional foods that

your family prepares?

• What language was spoken at home?

What language was spoken with other


• What words, wisdom, or advice was

passed down from previous generations?

• How did your family view con ict?

• How would your family have de ned


• What was your family’s view regarding

time? Were they relaxed in terms of time

expectations or did they reinforce the

importance of being prompt?

• What messages did you receive about

your own and other racial, ethic, or

cultural groups while growing up?

• In your family, were children encouraged

to be self-reliant and independent

or was emphasis placed the importance

of the family or group unit?

• In what ways did your family background

in uence your life choices,

identity, and views about education?


• What were your family’s views on

childrearing practices such as feeding,

toileting, dressing, playing, and nighttime


• What were your family’s views on acceptable

and unacceptable children’s

behavior and appropriate methods of


When cultural con ict occurs

ere are many areas of potential con-

ict that can result from di erences in

cultural beliefs, especially in the area

childrearing practices and expectations

for daily routines in the classroom. How

an individual views the teacher’s role,

di erent approaches to discipline, and the

appropriate emphasis that should be placed

on di erent curriculum areas can be quite

di erent based on that person’s cultural

background. If a Head Start director hires a

teacher who is from a culture that emphasizes

respect for authority, complete

obedience to parents, and high levels of

achievement in school, that teacher is likely

to clash with another teacher whose culture

values independence in children, the ability

to solve problems collaboratively, and the

importance of children’s social/emotional


Resolving di erences that arise from

di ering cultural beliefs is not easy; rst

and foremost, it requires an open mind.

Secondly, learning the reason behind a

particular cultural clash can help expand

our understanding and appreciation for

other people’s perspectives. Here are some

ideas to help you get started in expanding

your own level of tolerance and respect for


• Examine your personal attitudes, values,

and beliefs. Ask yourself: Am I able to

identify what makes me uncomfortable?

Can I accept someone else’s right to hold

beliefs, values, and ideas that are di erent

from my own?

• Learn about other cultures. ere are

many ways you can expand your understanding

of di erent cultures. Read

ctional and non ctional books about

other cultures. Get to know community

leaders from other cultures and

ask plenty of questions to deepen your

understanding about their background,

traditions, and beliefs. Being observant

and asking questions respectfully with a

genuine desire to learn is the best way to

become more knowledgeable and form

connections with others.

• Avoid making inferences. Try to catch

yourself whenever you start to think in

stereotypes: All Muslims do… Asians

think… Hispanics are… Remember

that each individual comes from a

unique family, and cultural characteristics

associated with their particular

culture may or may not be a part of their

family’s culture.

• Create a space that welcomes everyone.

Take a look around your center. Does it

truly re ect the people who work there,

the families in your program, the community?

Is your o ce welcoming to

sta and parents — do they feel comfortable

entering and having a conversation

with you?

• Establish a foundation for open communication.

e time and e ort you put into

relationship building and establishing

and encouraging open communication

are critical to helping sta members feel

as though they are part of your Head

Start family. Do you have regular sta

meetings? How do sta members feel

about contributing during sta meetings?

Is the environment one in which

your sta members feel safe providing


the Way

input and expressing their thoughts

and concerns? Consider using some of

the self-re ective questions earlier in

this article to stimulate an open discussion

about cultural preferences. All sta

members bene t from being able to have

open discussions about di erent aspects

of each other’s culture.

Building cultural sensitivity

takes patience

Head Start programs face a lot of pressure

to be in compliance with outcomes,

standards, initiatives, and deadlines.

Building relationships that bridge di erent

cultures takes time and patience. You may

sense only small incremental changes as

you work toward a partnership based on

respect, acknowledgement of di erent perspectives,

and the desire to view diversity

as an asset.

A diverse sta brings many bene ts to

your program. It enhances your ability to

better meet the needs of children and families

from di erent cultural traditions, and

it adds to your own and others’ professional

development. When you make a commitment

to understand and embrace the

diversity among the sta and families in

your program, you are taking the rst step

toward building a work environment that is

supportive and culturally competent.

Barbara Volpe is a training and technical assistance

specialist at the McCormick Tribune Center

for Early Childhood Leadership. She works as an

assessor in the Centers Quality Counts initiative.

e McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood

Leadership is dedicated to enhancing the

management skills, professional orientation, and

leadership capacity of early childhood administrators.

To nd out more about the Center’s training,

technical assistance, evaluation, research,

and public awareness activities, log onto http:// or call (800) 443-5522, ext. 5056.



18 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008



Julianne Zvalo Martyn

Program Manager

Raising A Reader

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

San Mateo, California

Promoting early literacy,

helping families

overcome barriers

“Hector doesn’t like me to read to him; he is always wiggling and running around.”

“I don’t know how to read English very well; my children will learn my mistakes.”

“I have three other children besides Stephanie. I don’t have time, and, anyways,

she’ll learn to read in school.”

Have you heard these or similar comments from the families in your program? As

Head Start professionals, you undoubtedly are aware of the value of parents or caregivers

sharing books with their children and of their involvement in their children’s education.

But as you also know, engaging families in book reading can be much more complicated

than just letting families know that reading with their young children is a simple yet e ective

way of improving their children’s listening and comprehension skills as well as their vocabulary

— all of which are integral to the development of literacy and cognitive skills. While

this is certainly important for families to know, you can’t stop here. If you want to boost

parental involvement in book reading, you’ll need to be aware of the obstacles that prevent

families from sharing books with their children and then develop strategies for overcoming

these obstacles.

Book sharing

Book sharing is a term used to refer to an interactive, one-on-one or small-group read-aloud

experience that occurs between caring adults and young children. I use the term book sharing

as a way of emphasizing that the experience is not always about reading the words. As

mentioned, book sharing promotes healthy brain development and increases early literacy

skills in children. In addition to these important outcomes, book sharing also facilitates parent-child



In my previous work as a parent educator

and preschool teacher, I was continually

involved in nding ways to reach and

support parents. ese days, in my current

position with Raising A Reader, a national

early literacy non-pro t organization, I’m

engaged in supporting agencies in their efforts

to involve and engage parents in early

literacy activities. One thing has become

very clear to me: Telling parents what they

should do simply isn’t enough — just like

knowing that we should oss our teeth

every day, eat more fresh vegetables, and

exercise regularly because it’s good for us is

rarely enough incentive to make us do these

things. Unfortunately, knowing these things

are important o en isn’t enough motivation.

So how do you motivate parents to read

to their young children and to participate in

the wonderful literacy activities that you’ve

planned for them? How do you overcome

some of the barriers that are currently keeping

them sharing books with their children?

Barriers parents face

I recently had the privilege of speaking to a

group of Head Start parents at a Head Start

conference in California. I came prepared

for anything because I didn’t know what

would be most on the minds of these parents.

Would they want to know about early

brain development, research, reading to

children? Did they want to know about our

program? I came ready with enough material

for several workshops!

What I found was that parents really

wanted to know how to share books with

their children, and they were hungry to understand

early brain development. ey had

many questions and many challenges, and

they didn’t have a lot of con dence. It can be

easy to forget that many parents simply don’t



know how important and easy it is to share

books with children! And parents o en have

to overcome several barriers and common

misconceptions about sharing books with

their children before they become comfortable

with the activity.

Let’s take a look at some of the common

barriers and mistaken beliefs. is isn’t

meant to be a comprehensive or scienti c

list; instead, the following list is based on

the combined experience of teachers and

administrators throughout the country.

• When I read to my children, they must

be quiet and listen.

• I must be a good reader to read to

my children.

• My child is too young to learn to read.

Reading is learned in school.

• I don’t have time to read to my child. I’m

too stressed out to even think about this.

• I don’t have access to books.

Sound familiar? Now let’s look at some

strategies that address these barriers.

Addressing the barriers

and reaching parents

Barrier #1: When I read to my children,

they must be quiet and listen attentively.

is is a simple misunderstanding that trips

up a lot of parents. Teachers and directors

understand interactive, or dialogic, reading,

and naturally use a book as a means

to develop meaningful interchanges with

young children. We understand that a child’s

brain development is highly in uenced by

social interactions using rich language and

that cognitive, higher-order thinking gets its

start from the social/emotional development

of the brain.

Setting the stage:

Tips for sharing books

with your child

• Get close and snuggle up.

• Make plenty of eye contact.

• Ask questions about the pictures, ideas,

and events in the story using a clear and

consistent style.

• Bring your own sense of fun and drama

to play — gesture, make faces, or move

your body in ways that help to convey

the story.

• Have your child tell you what is happen-

ing in the story.

• Share your own feelings and ideas.

• Accept the children’s fears, ideas, and

feelings as real, not exaggerated.

• Ask more questions after the story is

nished. It is this interaction that really


Parents, on the other hand, are o en

coming from a perspective of wanting to “do

it right.” ey may erroneously believe that

they need to read didactically, with their role

being that of the “reader” while their child’s

role is to listen attentively — making it possible,

as parents see it — for them to learn.

Parents may think they need to read straight

through a book, from beginning to end, and

that their child should sit still, be silent, and

listen carefully. Perhaps this is what they

remember from their own experience in

school, or maybe they never experienced intimate

one-on-one book sharing as children.

Many of the parents with whom we work

did not have books in their homes when

they were growing up.

Parents are also naturally concerned

about their children’s behavior. ey have

an idea of what ideal behavior looks like and

may feel frustrated and inadequate when

their children do not behave in this way.

Parents who have not been taught what interactive,

language-rich book sharing looks

like may have an unrealistic idea of what it

should be. As you know, trying to get a 2year-old

to sit quietly and listen can be very

frustrating. It isn’t surprising that parents

who think they aren’t capable of reading “the

right way” with their children or that their

children refuse to “behave” would resist or

avoid reading with their children.


Once parents understand that it is both

good and expected for their children to

interact, interrupt, dance around, and talk

during book sharing, they can relax a little

and enjoy this time with their children. Here

are a few suggestions or tips you can share

with families:

• When sharing books with children, it’s

perfectly OK to “read” the pictures, start

in the back of the book, or only look at

one page.

• To get your child involved in the story, ask

questions about the pictures and story.

• Allow your child to take the lead.

When we convey to parents that it is

best to let the child take the lead and to

even tell a story by reading just the pictures,

parents visibly relax. A young mother in one

of my recent workshops looked as though a

ton of bricks had been li ed from her shoulders

and said, “I am so relieved. It’s always

been so stressful to read to my son, and I

feel guilty about not doing it, but I always

thought I was doing something wrong. I

think I get it now.”

John is very active. It takes a lot for

him to sit down and be still. So when

I introduce a book to him, I do it

really slowly. I read through a couple

pages or just ip through it a little bit

to get him interested. It takes about a

week for us to get through the whole

book. A er that, though, it instantly

becomes one of his favorite books

and we can read it over and over.

— A father in a book sharing


About Raising A Reader

RAR is a program designed to encourage low-income parents

with limited literacy and English skills to read and to share the

book experience with their young children by establishing

a reading routine that enhances their children’s vocabulary,

pre-literacy skills, and family bonding time. Headquartered

at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Raising A Reader is

operated through a diverse national network of community

a liates (such as Head Start, school systems, libraries, or local

United Ways). These a liates reach out to low-income families

through preschools, home visiting programs, adult education

centers, family childcare homes — any place where parents and children routinely gather. Each

week, Raising A Reader children (or parents) bring home a sturdy red bag lled with four high-

quality, developmentally-appropriate, multi-cultural children’s books. Over the course of several

months, they are exposed to a wide range of titles, providing them with both a mirror re ecting

their own world and a window to the world beyond. Through initial training and ongoing support,

Raising A Reader parents — including those with limited English pro ciency or low literacy skills

— learn how to engage their children in storytelling with picture books. The program includes an

introduction to the public library, setting up families for a lifetime of book enjoyment.

Sixteen independent evaluations demonstrate that Raising A Reader makes a positive and

lasting impact, signi cantly improving both family reading behavior, parent-child bonding, and

kindergarten readiness across diverse culture and language demographics. Currently, researchers

from the Stanford Schools of Education and Medicine are examining the longitudinal impact of

Raising A Reader on parent-child bonding and early literacy skill development among low-income

families with children in the 9-24 month-old age range.

For more information, visit or call (650) 581-4300.

Barrier #2: I must be a good reader

to read to my children.

Many parents with low literacy are

embarrassed about their reading ability,

or lack of it, and, as a result, don’t feel that

sharing books would be bene cial to their

children. ey worry that their children will

learn to read incorrectly. Parents who can

read well but who have an accent sometimes

worry their child will pick up that accent.

Lack of con dence is a major factor in

parents’ lack of involvement in early literacy.

If you put yourself in their shoes,

you can understand this. One of my colleagues

grew up with a single mom who

was a native Spanish speaker. Her mother

did not read to her because she was worried

about passing on her accent. She insisted

that her daughter, at a very young age, read

to her instead. At the time this was un-




comfortable for my colleague, and she still

remains uncomfortable reading aloud to

this day. ough her mother need not have

worried, her fear was understandable. Particularly

when you consider that at that time

and in the area she lived, her accent was a

barrier to employment.

is worry includes a misunderstanding

of the reasons why reading to young

children is so bene cial. Studies show that

conversation and storytelling are both key to

early brain development and early literacy.

As such, books can be thought of as tools

for developing rich brain-building language



We can teach parents in a variety of ways

that a book is a wonderful tool with which

to build conversation. Here are some e ective

ways to get that point across, especially

with parents with low or no literacy skills.

Here are a few key things you can

teach parents:

• Children don’t care about mistakes and

they don’t care how well you read. What

they need is to hear a parent’s voice and

to engage in conversation.

• Children are not going to pick up your

accent, and it doesn’t matter if you can

read in English. What does matter is the

quality time you spend with your child

and the fact that you are giving your child

opportunities to use and explore language.

• Storytelling is an excellent alternative that

also helps build cognitive and language

skills, and it is a powerful and e ective

bridge from conversation to reading. It is

Quick tip



important to share stories from your own

childhood with your children. is helps

to build vocabulary and helps children

understand sentence structure and syntax.

Storytelling prompts the use of cognitive

skills and imagination in forming mental

images and making predictions, which

then enables children to form their own


• How to read interactively. e following

wordless book activity is e ective in

making this process easy to learn (without

embarrassing parents with low-literacy


Wordless book activity

Sharing books without pictures is a very

e ective way to help parents understand

that they can enjoy books without having

to read. In a group setting…

1. Model how to share a wordless book with

a group of parents. Be as interactive as

possible. You can start by role playing,

with you taking on the role of “parent”

and some parents as the “children.” If you

do this, rst model reading non-interactively,

or didactically, and watch the “children”

misbehave and become frustrated.

en model interactive reading.

2. Ask the volunteers and the group for

feedback a er each modeling exercise.

3. Now have the group get into pairs, and

pass out wordless books, one per pair.

Instruct the pairs to role play a parent

and child. e “parent” practices telling

the story by “reading” the pictures to the

“child.” ey can either switch roles a er

a few minutes, or take turns reading to

each other on every other page.

4. Get feedback from the group and discuss

the bene ts of building children’s

vocabularies, of bonding, and so forth.

Find out if they remember reading with

their parents as children. is is a great

opportunity for you to learn more about

the parents with whom you work.

O er supportive praise and encouragement to all families. Make parents feel good about what

they do in terms of rich language conversations with their children, and help them build on these

things. You’ll build their con dence if you help them recognize and build on their strengths.

Barrier #3: My child is too young

to learn to read. Reading is learned

in school.

is used to be a very common belief. In

the past, experts didn’t realize the amount

of brain development that occurs during

the rst few years of life, and they didn’t

understand how early language experiences

prepare children for reading when

they reach school age. Some parents truly

don’t see the point of reading to their child,

especially if their child is too young to speak

or to understand the story.


Learning a little about early brain development

is o en useful in overcoming this

belief. Pictures are worth a thousand words,

and brain scans can be especially interesting

to parents. Here are some facts that might

help illustrate the importance of early childhood


• Most growth happens early: At age 3, the

brain is 80 percent of its adult size; at age

5, it is 90 percent of its adult size

• ere are critical time periods for specialized

development associates with oral

language, especially grammar and pronunciation.

e window begins to close at 5

years of age.

• Conversation and sharing books during

this period help determine a child’s reading

and thinking ability later on.

I used to read to Peter like how I’d

read by myself, from the beginning

all the way to the end, page by page,

making all the correct phonetic

sounds. But he wasn’t happy that

way; he doesn’t think that way — he’s

a 3-year-old. So we now read from

the end, go to the beginning, or even

start in the middle and work backwards

to the beginning. We make up

words to the story, make the sounds

we think the animal would make,

like a duck saying quack, quack,

quack. It’s interesting because he gets

more out of the story than just what

the plot of the story is.

— A mother speaking about reading

with her child

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Barrier #4: I don’t have time to read

to my child. I’m too stressed out to

even think about this.

Raising children is uniquely rewarding

and joyful, but it is also demanding, stressful,

and sometimes isolating. And there’s

just no denying that parents are busy people.

erefore, it is important that we do not

underestimate the amount of stress parents

are under. As such, shared book experiences

should be designed to alleviate stress —

and parents should feel supported in their

e orts.


Many parents may be under the impression

that they need at least 15 minutes or longer

to sit down and read. It might be obvious

to us that reading can happen anywhere

and that it does not need to take a long

time — but parents might not realize that

book sharing and other important language

Call 800.627.7271 or visit for more information.

experiences don’t have to be restricted to

traditional sit-down, book-in-hand experiences.

Here are some tips you can share with


• Get your children excited! When children

are excited about books and beg their

parent to read to them, reading naturally

becomes a greater priority.

• e amount of time you spend sharing

books is not as important as keeping to a

regular schedule. Five minutes every day is

better than 30 minutes once a week.

• Keep books on hand in the car or diaper

bag. Pull out a book wherever you might

have to wait, such as the doctor’s o ce,

restaurant, or car repair shop.

Copyright © 2008 Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliate(s). All Rights Reserved. Work Sampling for Head Start and the Work Sampling Logo are trademarks of Pearson Education ALP 1651 05/08

Work sampling ad.indd 1 4/22/08 9:16:21 AM


• Share books at meal or snack time, when

the children are already sitting still. You

don’t want this to disrupt the eating routine,

so it might be wise to bring out the

book at the end of the meal.

• Share books at bedtime as a way to quiet a

child. is is a terri c way to relax as the

day winds down. Book sharing should be

thought of as a handy tool in a parenting

“bag of tricks” — one that helps keep the

child-rearing operation running smoothly.

• Limit the time children spend in front

of the television and computer. ese

activities are not recommended for young

children. Be sure to turn o the TV when

you are reading because it can be very

distracting for children.

Barrier #5: I don’t have access

to books.

is is a very real barrier. Many parents

don’t have easy access to or experience with

children’s books. e reasons for this may

be related to parents’ income or education

levels or personal experiences. Whatever the

reason, however, without access to children’s

books, there can be very little book sharing

with children!


Despite the fact that not having access to

books is a real barrier to book sharing,

simply giving families books will not a

guarantee that they will read them. Children

must be taught to be excited about books

and families must be shown fun, e ective

read-aloud strategies and be taught about

the importance of interactive book sharing.

Here are some suggestions to help you do

just that.

1. Give or lend books to families while also

guiding them in book selection: Giving

books can be expensive and, therefore,

not something that you can do o en. Be



sure to also show parents how to select

books that work well for them and their

children. Sometimes parents are not

successful because the books they choose

are not age appropriate. Consider holding

a literacy event that highlights things to

look for when selecting books for sharing.

2. Connect parents to the library. It’s not

enough to merely give parents information

about the library. Many parents are

not familiar with their local library and

they may be intimidated to walk in on

their own. Helping families develop an

appreciation for the library is a great way

to increase the likelihood that they will

continue to share books a er they leave

your program.

3. Directors, building bridges to the library

in partnership with your local system’s

director of library services is a terri c

way to help teachers promote this public

service. Keep in mind that…

• e American Library Association’s Every

Child Ready to Read program is a parent

education program that is sure to dovetail

nicely with your program’s e orts.

• Agencies throughout the nation partner

with their libraries. ey organize

special story hours, big and small events,

tours, special waivers for library cards, or

punch-card systems in which individuals

who visit the library a set number of

times win a prize. Some libraries even

arrange special days when nes are forgiven.

• All teachers should be supported in their

e orts. Encourage sta members to introduce

parents to the library system and

model how they can do so.

4. Teachers, in order promote the library

connection, have librarians come to your

class or parent workshop, and provide

library card applications and library

General parent engagement tips

Before beginning any type of parent en-

gagement e orts, it is important to examine

your motivations and basic philosophy. Here

are a few key guidelines:

1. Treat parents respectfully. Don’t talk

down to parents or assume that you

know best or that you know more than

they do. All parents are experts and all

parents want the best for their child.

Always remember: Parents are passion-

ate about their children. Parents are very

busy people. Parents are a ected by

factors that you may be unaware of.

2. Be respectful of cultural di erences.

This is easy to say and sometimes dif-

cult to practice. Some people arrive in

this country with very di erent beliefs

about child rearing and development

than are commonly accepted here. Try to

understand where they are coming from.

3. When developing parent education

programs, ask parents what they want

to know rather than deciding what

you think they should know. Adults are

much more open to learning when they

have had a voice in both the plans and


4. Remember that parents need social

and emotional support. Ideally, par-

ent involvement programs should be

designed to build connections and sup-

port systems between parents as well as

between the implementer and parents.

Making the environment and/or event

welcoming and conducive to social

interaction will persuade parents to par-

ticipate again and will help to de-stress

parents and open them to learning. Time

the event so that it is most convenient

for parents and respect their time and

e ort.

5. Have con dence in your ability. Early

childhood professionals need support

in order to know that what they have to

o er and what they are working toward

is worthwhile.

information (such as notices about special

events and hours of operation). You

should also arrange a family eld trip to

the library to help overcome barriers that

might otherwise prevent families from

going to the library. Keep in mind that

some parents might have transportation

issues. I’ve known many of teachers who

take parents and children on a city bus

outing to get them through the doors for

that rst time. If you live in a rural area,

nd out if there is a travelling library


In a nutshell

Teaching early literacy strategies to parents

may be one of the most important things

you can do to improve a child’s chances for

success in school and life. Sharing books

is an easy, cost-e ective, and fun way to

build the parent-child relationship, encourage

healthy brain development, and

increase early literacy skills. It might take a

little — or perhaps a lot — of e ort to help

parents overcome some of the barriers to

sharing books with their children. But with

passion and commitment from teachers

and directors, book sharing can become an

exciting and enjoyable way for families to

connect with their children. You too might

nd that you have a story like the one that

follows to tell:

We had a child whose parents were

illiterate at one of our sites. e parents were

very frightened to even try to “read” to their

child and, as a result, they never did. A er

we introduced our book sharing program to

this family and their child became excited

about bringing home books, the parents

admitted their fears to their child’s teacher.

e teacher knew how to react to this

family’s issue and taught them how to tell

the story based on the pictures alone. e

teacher explained that sharing the book with

their child was the most important part, not

the actual story. e parents began telling

stories to their child from the pictures and

their con dence quickly grew. Not only did

the child bene t, the parents did as well. e

parents gained enough con dence to ask for

help; they are now enrolled in adult literacy

classes with a local agency.

— Shared by an early literacy director

in Oklahoma.

© 2008 Playworld Systems,® Inc.

Reminder: Show families that you respect

and believe in them. Maintain an atmosphere

of cooperative learning, by listening to what

they say and learning about the challenges

they face.

Fun Center.

Keeping little bodies

and minds going a

gazillion miles an hour.

The whimsical, organic designs attract kids

like magnets. The activities engage them

fully, stimulating their physical, intellectual

and social development. No wonder that on

any playground, a Fun Center is the epicenter

of exploration, discovery and excitement.


Inclusive Literacy

26 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008



Building a solid foundation

Listening, oral language development, phonological awareness, letter

knowledge and recognition, print awareness, and comprehension: These

are widely accepted as the six foundational skills that are needed by all

children — including children with special needs and those from high-risk

environments — in order to become successful readers. After we brie y

examine each one, we’ll look at some simple literacy lessons that apply

these components and how those lessons might be adapted for children

with special needs.


Listening — which is considered to be the

foundation for all literacy development and

an essential skill for building language and

enhancing overall communication — begins

in the womb. During the h month of

pregnancy, a fetus’s auditory system is developed

enough to hear sounds from outside

the womb. Generally, the more a child is

spoken to during the early years, the better

his listening skills become.

Clarissa Willis

Associate Director Center of Excellence

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee

Pam Schiller

Early Childhood Consultant and Author

Schiller Educational Resources

Cypress, Texas

for All!

One important factor in listening skills

is a child’s attention span. Young children

typically have the ability to focus their attention

one minute for each year of development

up to the age of 5, at which point the

child picks up an additional minute. Like

adults, children typically use their attention

spans for three rounds before becoming so

exhausted that listening becomes too di -

cult to continue. is means that a 4-yearold

can listen for about 12 minutes before

losing attention (that is, three rounds of four

minutes each) while a 5-year-old can listen

for approximately 18 minutes before losing

attention. Practice, by doing things like following

directions, listening to stories, and

participating in conversations, can also help

children increase their ability to listen. However,

this may not apply to children with

special needs, who, depending on the type

and severity of their need, may have much

shorter attention spans than their same age

peers. Even so, children with special needs

do need to learn how to listen. In fact, depending

on the type of special need, a child’s

ability to understand what is happening

might hinge on the child’s ability to listen

for cues. For example, a child with signi -

cant visual impairment will learn to depend


on her listening skills as a way to function

within a preschool classroom. A child who

has cognitive challenges might learn to

listen for a completely di erent reason: it

may serve as a cue to help him function in

the everyday world. On the other hand, a

child with a hearing loss may need to rely

on her residual (le over) hearing abilities

to understand what is being said. In short,

listening is a fundamental skill that when

properly developed enables children with

special needs to communicate e ectively

and become more independent.

Oral language development

A strong vocabulary is the next building

block that plays a key role in literacy.

e components of oral language include

vocabulary, grammar, and, ultimately, being

able to communicate e ectively in a variety

of situations. e size of a child’s vocabulary

is one of the most accurate predictors

of how successful that child will be when

she encounters formal reading instruction.

e most fertile time for language development

is from birth to age 5. Five-year-olds

typically will have acquired 60 percent of

the vocabulary they’ll build during their

lifetime. e more vocabulary-building

opportunities young children are given, the

greater the likelihood that they will increase

their word bank and learn to master the

correct usage of those words. Considering

that it is easier for teachers to communicate

using more words and complex sentences

with children who are more articulate, it is

particularly important to spend extra time

working on the vocabulary development of

a child with a speech and/or language delay.

O en, because of their delays, these children

do not have the same opportunities to develop

their language skills as their typicallydeveloping


Opportunities for children to improve

their vocabulary skills occur throughout

the day in the classroom — during group

discussions, while singing, or while listening

to a story. Constantly being alert to these

opportunities is a big part of becoming more

intentional and purposeful in our teaching.

Modeling correct sentence structure and

grammar and encouraging children to make

necessary adaptations will also help them

to develop their skills. When children hear

the correct use of grammar, they eventually

modify their own use of it to relay information

about needs, wants, ideas, and so

forth. Your role is to coach them gently by

restating their questions and responding in

a way that doesn’t embarrass them or create

too much fuss about their errors. Children

with cognitive or severe language delays

need even more help. Unlike their typically-developing

peers, they have di culty

learning from modeling and watching what

others do. Instead, they need speci c and

direct instruction on how to use language,

and they also need extra practice. For these

children, it is important to break down new

information or instructions into smaller

steps and practice each step with the child

before moving to the next one.

Phonological awareness

e third building block is phonological

awareness, or sensitivity to sound. For

preschool children, sound discrimination

activities include recognizing both sounds

that are the same and those that are different,

playing with onomatopoeia words,

matching rhyming word pairs, and identifying

the repetitive sound in an alliterative

phrase or sentence. e foundation for

sound discrimination is wired in the brain

during the rst year of life, as a neuron is

assigned to every sound in a baby’s native

language (44 phonemes in English). e

more the child is spoken to, sung to, and

read to, the more discriminate the neurons

become. During the rst year, a child’s brain

is capable of wiring sounds for as many different

languages as it experiences.

Again, some techniques to develop

phonological awareness include focusing

on alliteration (or the repetition of the same

sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the

beginning of words or in stressed syllables,

such as Franklin and his friend frightened

poor Frieda); onomatopoeia words (or

words that imitate the sounds they denote,

such as buzz or splat); and rhyming word

patterns in songs, books, and activities.

Become more intentional and purposeful in

your instruction by watching for opportunities

to use these approaches and turning

them into lessons.

O en, children with special needs do

not develop an awareness of the sounds they

hear, because they are unable to develop a

phonological system that helps them decode

words. A child who is deaf, for example, will

not learn how to sound things out and combine

sounds in order to read words. Instead,

it is important that the child learns how to

use words in context rather than in isolation.

Children with language delays need

extra practice to develop their phonological

awareness. It is very important that these

children develop this skill because there is

a direct relationship between phonological

awareness and future success with reading.

is is also true for children with cognitive

de cits. Research has shown that breaking

down a task into small steps and allowing

the child extra time to practice each step can

help that child learn the skills necessary to

build phonological awareness.

Letter knowledge and recognition

Letter knowledge and recognition is the

ability to recognize all 26 letters of the

alphabet in both uppercase and lowercase

forms and to understand that letters are the

foundation of words. It is important to teach

the alphabet to children in such a way that

they understand that the letters can be used

in a number of combinations and orders.

28 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


is concept is o en hampered by the

fact that children learn the alphabet song

early in life and sing it over and over again,

always in the same order. e initial wiring

for letter knowledge gets connected and

reinforced in a low-functioning part of the

brain, far away from the place where it will

be needed when used in rational thought.

When children continually say or sing the

alphabet starting with A and ending with Z,

they tend to think of the alphabet as linear

— that it always starts with A and ends with

Z. is can create a challenge when they

begin to move from letters into words.

To help children understand that the

alphabet is not linear, teachers can teach

children to sing the alphabet song forward

and backward. Children also need to be

taught to think of letters as independent

components that can be organized in many

di erent ways. is is especially true for

children with special needs, who o en do

not generalize information well. In other

words, although a child might be able to

participate in singing the alphabet song, she

may not understand that letters are combined

to make individual words.

For children who cannot see letters, it is

important that they learn what letters look

like by other means, such as touching letter

cutouts. It is also imperative that children

with special needs learn new concepts in

meaningful context. So while learning letters

in isolation may have little meaning for a

child with cognitive challenges, learning the

letters in his name and the sound that each

letter makes is a meaningful and functional

skill that will help the child as he is learning

to read.

Print awareness

Print awareness is the knowledge that printed

words move from le to right and from

top to bottom. It is also the awareness that

print has many functions, including labeling

items, creating lists, conveying information

in newspapers, telling stories in books,

identifying exits and entrances, and so on.

You can see print awareness begin to emerge

when children start to identify their favorite

restaurant or store by its logo or sign. is is

referred to as environmental print. Around

this time, some children also begin to combine

letters to make words, usually starting

with their own name. Others will pretend to

write a message using pretend letters

Research has shown that children with

special needs require more visual cues (such

as pictures) to help them learn to recognize

print when they see it around them, and

they o en need additional opportunities

to practice print awareness. Group lessons

may need to be repeated and expanded, and

plenty of opportunities should be given enable

children to practice what they learn in a

variety of settings in order to reinforce their

development of print awareness.


Comprehension involves the internalization

of a story. It develops when children have

an opportunity to retell stories in their own

words, act out stories, and listen to stories

that are not accompanied by illustrations.

And it is through comprehension skills that

children are able to make up a story on their

own. Children who are able to understand

the concept of “story” can use language to

predict story events, cognitively organize

story ideas, and involve themselves in the

storyline while actively listening to a story

that is being told or read to them. ese

skills, in turn, strengthen their comprehension

while listening. Understanding how authors

describe settings, develop characters,

and organize the storyline also helps young

children cra their own stories.

Because children with special needs

may not have the same internalization

skills as their peers, it is important to

look for ways to help them get involved in

the storyline. Short attention spans o en

interfere with the development of critical

listening skills. In addition, children who

have a limited language repertoire need

implicit instructions as well as multiple

opportunities to understand what words

mean and how they are used in context.

Because comprehension involves both seeing

pictures and printed words and hearing

spoken words, it is especially important that

children with vision or hearing impairments

receive specialized instruction. Stories and

activities should be adapted in a way that

these children can understand, so that they

have the same opportunities as their peers to

learn through comprehension.


Literacy lessons with

special needs adaptations

Now that we’ve brie y reviewed the six

foundational skills that enable children to

learn how to read, let’s take a look at some

sample literacy lessons and how they can be

adapted for children with special needs.

Yarn tales

Objective: To help children learn…

1. To use complete sentences.

2. To listen with purpose.

Vocabulary words:

• Add • Story • Tale

• Tell • Turn • Yarn


• Crayons • Paper

• Photos from

magazines • Yarn

Literacy lesson:

• Make a partial statement, and ask a volunteer

to nish the thought. For example,

say, “ e three little pigs built homes. e

rst little pig built his home with …”

• A er the children have practiced completing

a sentence, try creating a group story

together. Ask the children to sit in a circle,

show them a ball of yarn, and explain that

the person who is holding the ball of yarn

will get to add to the group story. Now

begin the group story by making up a few

sentences. Make sure your story topic is

one that all of the children know something

about. For example, “One day, Evan

was playing in the park. He saw another

little boy sliding down the slide. Evan

walked over to the little boy and said …”

Now give the yarn to the child sitting beside

you and invite her to add to the story.

When she’s nished, have her pass the ball

of yarn to the next child. Continue passing

the yarn and adding to the story as long as

the story holds the interest of the children.

Keep in mind that learning to add on to a

story takes practice. Children will get better

at this activity each time you repeat it.

Special needs adaptations:

Special need Adaptation

Visual impairments Invite the child to hold the yarn and feel it before starting the

group story. Explain that each child will pass the yarn to the

next person after he has made up a sentence or added some-

thing to the story.

When a child passes the yarn to a child with visual impairments,

remind the child who is passing the yarn to place it in the palm

of the other child’s hand to signal that it’s time to add a sentence.

Hearing impairments Because a child with hearing impairments may not be able to

hear the other children well, place him next to you and face him

when you start the story. Then allow the child to be the rst to

add to the story.

Cognitive delays

Help the child participate by asking her a question. For example,

if the child before her says, “David missed the bus.” You might

say, “_____ (use the child’s name), how do you think David got to

school?” If the child answers, “car” you might then say, “Let’s put

that in a sentence.”

Make the sentence so that the child can ll in the blank, “David

asked his mom to take him to school in the _____.” Invite the

child to ll in the blank and then pass the yarn to the next child.

Speech/Language delays Because making a sentence without cues can be very di cult for

a child with limited vocabulary, ask the child questions that will

help him create a sentence that he can add to the group story.

Emotional/Behavior issues So that the child does not become frustrated by having to wait

Extending the learning:

too long for his turn, try making several class stories and keeping

the group size smaller, limiting the group to ve or six children at

30 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


a time.

• Cut photos from magazines (or draw pictures)

and glue them to blank index cards

to create a deck of object cards. Divide the

cards into two decks, and turn the photos

face down. Have the children take turns

drawing one photo from each stack and

then making up a sentence or a story that

connects the two images.

• Ask each child to draw a picture. Shu e

the pictures and pass them out so that

each child has one. en ask each child to

make up a sentence about the picture.

• Have the children sit in a circle. Hold a

ball in your lap. Make up a couple of sentences

for a story starter and then roll the

ball to one of the children and encourage

them to add on to the story. When they

have added a sentence or two, have that

child roll the ball to a friend to continue

the story. Continue for as long as the story

holds the interest of the children

Re ect:

Ask the children the following questions:

• Which part of the story did you like best?

• Do you think stories are better when a lot

of people add parts to them?

Sensory letter makers

Objectives: To help children learn…

1. To recognize letters of the alphabet.

2. To use their senses to recognize letters.


• Alphabet • Curved • Draw • Feel

• First • Letters • Mold • Shape

• Straight • Touch • Write


• 4" x 8" sheets of tag board

• Sandpaper letters

(sandpaper and magnetic letters)

• Scissors

• Tactile letter cards

(glue and sandpaper letters)

• Tactile play dough

(play dough and sand)

• Wikki Stix

Preparation: Make letter cards by printing

the alphabet onto 4" x 8" sheets of tag board.

Make sandpaper letters by tracing magnetic

letters onto sandpaper and then cutting out

the letters. Make tactile letter cards by gluing

the sandpaper letters onto small index

cards. Make tactile play dough by mixing

two teaspoons of sand in a traditional play

dough recipe.

Literacy lesson:

• Sing the alphabet song.

• Tell the children that they will be using

their senses to make letters.

• Have the children pretend to write letters

in the air. Show letter cards for each letter

of the alphabet. Turn your back to the

children and demonstrate writing the

letter in the air. Encourage the children

to copy your movements.

• Have the children practice “air writing”

the rst letter of their names.

• Invite the children to stand in a circle with

their back to the person behind them (so

all of the children will be facing the back

of the child in front of them in the circle).

Have the children practice writing a letter

that you select on their classmate’s back.

• Invite the children to shape the rst letter

of their name using the tactile play dough.

• Give the children the sandpaper letter

cards. See if they can nd the letters in

their name with their eyes closed.

• Provide Wikki Stix. Encourage the children

to shape the rst letter of their name.

Special needs adaptations:

Special need Adaptation

Visual impairments When standing in a circle, encourage the child to put his hand

on the shoulder of the child in front of him before he writes a

letter on his back.

Remind peers that children with visual impairments often need

to use “soft touches” to help them explore the world around





Hearing impairments Make sure that you direct the child’s attention to you when you

are letter writing, so he can watch what you are doing. For the

“back writing” activity, it may be necessary to demonstrate what

you will be doing by writing rst on the child’s back.

Cognitive delays If a child does not know how to make a letter, encourage him

to try. You might also have the children work in pairs, making

sure to pair a child with cognitive delays with a peer who can

successfully form a letter.

Select letters to “write” on a peer’s back that the child knows

how to write.

Motor delays If a child can’t participate in the back-writing activity, let her

be the leader and pick the letters the children will write.

Speech/Language delays Provide extra practice for the child and help him identify other


words that also start with the rst letter of his name.

Remember to include the child’s family by encouraging them

to practice these activities with him at home.

Behavior issues

Keep in mind that children with autism often do not do well in

activities that involve touching other people or art mediums

(such as clay, paint, Wikki Stix, etc.). If the child has a preferred

art medium, encourage her to use that one to write the rst

letter of her name.

Extending the learning:

• Make gel bags by lling a quart-size

re-sealable plastic bag half full with hair

gel. Print alphabet letters on 4" x 6" index

cards. Invite the children to pick a letter,

place the gel bag over the letter (it will

show through the bag), and trace the letter

with their nger.

• Print letters on 4" x 6" index cards. Instruct

the children to use a bottle of glue

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to make glue drops over the shapes of the

letters. When the glue dries, you will have

a set of tactile alphabet cards.

32 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


Re ect:

Ask the children the following questions:

• Was it easier to shape the rst letter of

your name with play dough or with wikki


• Does the rst letter of your name have

straight lines, curved lines, or both types

of lines?

Clarissa Willis, Ph.D., is currently the associate

director of the Center of Excellence in Early Childhood

Learning and Development and associate

professor of Special Education at East Tennessee

State University. Willis is a frequent keynote

speaker and presenter at regional and national

early childhood conferences. Her articles on child

development and early childhood special education

have been published both nationally and


Pam Schiller, Ph.D., is a freelance early childhood

consultant and author. Schiller has been a child

care administrator for several years and has also

taught in the public schools as a kindergarten

teacher. She served as head of the Early Childhood

Department at the University of Houston where

she also directed the Lab School. Schiller shares

her extensive knowledge in workshops, radio, and

television interviews, and as a popular keynote

speaker and author. She is senior author of the

DLM Early Childhood Express, a full curriculum

for 4-year-olds; the DLM Early Childhood

Program, a full curriculum for Kindergarten; and

Early Impressions: Start Smart Edition, a full curriculum

for infants and toddlers.

This article was adapted from Inclusive Literacy

Lessons For Early Childhood, by Pam Schiller and

Clarissa Willis (Gryphon House, 2008).

Back-to-School 2008 Insert #53

Getting a Head Start on Oral Health

Resources for better oral health

for educators, caregivers, and


Contributed by Delta Dental

Few things can distract a child and take

away the joy of learning faster than a

painful cavity. As American children enter

kindergarten, 40 percent of them will have

already experienced this pain. It’s a problem

that Head Start educators and sta see

all too often.

“Access to oral health services is the

number one health issue a ecting Head

Start programs,” said Robin Brocato, health

specialist at the O ce of Head Start, in a

recent presentation made at the Delta Dental

Plans Association Community Bene t

Conference. According to Head Start’s own

Program Information Report (PIR) data,

25 percent of all Head Start children need

dental care — a gure that has remained

virtually unchanged over the years.

The case for oral health is indisputable.

Good oral health supports children’s ability

to learn and grow by giving them freedom

from pain and infection. It contributes to

normal, healthy facial and speech development,

allows for them to eat nourishing

food, and promotes good self-esteem. In

contrast, the consequences for children

of poor oral health include chronic pain,

poor self-esteem, missed opportunities for

learning because of absence from school,

di culty eating and sleeping, and health

complications resulting from untreated

disease. In addition, problems with spacing

as permanent teeth grow in can also result

when baby teeth are damaged by decay.

Getting children the care they need,

however, has proven to be a challenge

that leaves many children with unmet

dental needs. While 82 percent of children

enrolled in Head Start are also enrolled

in Medicaid, SCHIP, or a combination

program, many face additional barriers,

ranging from transportation to the availability

of dentists who accept Medicaid.

Fortunately for Head Start children, there

are resources and services that can help.

Getting a Head Start on oral care

One of Head Start’s goals is to identify

children’s health and developmental

concerns and to help meet children’s basic

health needs; prevention plays a pivotal

role in this. Within 90 days of entering

Head Start programs, sta members

determine if children are up to date on

a schedule of well child care, including

dental care, as determined by states’ Early

Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, Treatment

(EPSDT) schedules. Head Start programs

are required to work with parents to bring

children up to date as soon as possible. If

any treatment is required, the treatment

plans must begin (although don’t need to

be completed) within 90 days of entry.

In the classroom, children get a daily

oral health boost from tooth brushing sessions.

As part of Head Start’s program performance

standards, teachers or classroom

volunteers are required once a day, after a

meal, to assist children aged 2 and older in

brushing their teeth using a small dab of

toothpaste containing uoride. Younger

children must receive more hands-on

brushing assistance, and infants under

the age of 1 must have their gums gently

wiped with a gauze pad.

Head Start also provides a variety of

other services to help families understand

and access dental care. Some programs

work with families to educate them about

the importance of care. They can help

families nd resources to access a ordable

care, including identifying dentists who accept

Medicaid or provide free or low-cost

services. Some programs work with families

to arrange transportation to participat-


Back-to-School 2008


ing dentists’ o ces (with written consent)

or partner with other local services to bring

mobile clinics to Head Start locations.

Finding a dental home

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

and Head Start recently teamed up to

create the Head Start Dental Home Initiative,

a new program intended to ensure

that the dental needs of young children

are met. A dental home is a primary dental

care provider who delivers for a broad

range of dental care over time, resulting

in professional oral health care that is

comprehensive, continuously accessible,

coordinated, culturally e ective, and family-centered.

The goal of the initiative is to

develop a national network of dentists to

link Head Start children with dental homes.

Strategies include training dentists and

Head Start personnel in optimal oral health

care practices, as well as providing parents,

caregivers, and Head Start sta with the

latest information about oral health.

The Dental Home Initiative launches

this September in six states, with an additional

eleven states added each year for the

following four years.

Partnership for prevention

The National Head Start Association also

works with other organizations to improve

the oral health of young children. As one

of its partners, Delta Dental has worked

with Head Start in speci c areas of the

nation over the years and is now expanding

its relationship to broaden the reach of

its programs. Some Delta Dental member

companies have developed curriculum to

educate Head Start sta , children, and their

caregivers about oral health. Washington

Dental Service (the Delta Dental member

company serving Washington State), for

example, developed Cavity Free Kids, a curriculum

that is free of charge to residents of

Washington state and includes classroom


activities, parent meetings, sta training

and agendas, and home visitor “tooth kits.”

(Go to for more


Others programs are working to

bring care closer to children. Delta Dental

of South Dakota, for instance, funds and

manages two mobile dental clinics that

include Head Start programs on their travel

itineraries. In Kansas, Delta Dental is providing

six portable and one permanent dental

operatory in seven of the 28 Head Start

communities. Delta Dental of Massachusetts

has a large-scale initiative underway

that began with an initial assessment of

the challenges within the state. An e ort

was then launched to bring together Head

Start grantees and dental care providers to

improve access to care and dental homes

for Head Start families; there is also an ongoing

program to assess the impact of the

program as well as its e ciency, e ectiveness,

and quality of care.

Still others, like Delta Dental of Michigan

are using the latest research to prevent

Oral health resources

American Academy of Pediatrics


American Association for Community

Dental Programs

Children’s Dental Health Project

Delta Dental

Health Teeth, Healthy Smiles


National Maternal and Child Oral

Health Resource Center

dental disease from occurring in the rst

place by funding state-wide uoride varnish

programs that can reduce the disease

in children by 40 to 60 percent.

Delta Dental Plans Association and

NHSA have recently expanded their partnership

to provide additional resources and

tools to improve the oral health of more

Head Start children. To learn more about

this partnership and the resources available

in your state, check out the members’

section of the NHSA Web site, located at, or contact your local Delta

Dental member company through www.

Delta Dental Plans Association, based in Oak

Brook, Illinois, is a national network of independent

not-for-pro t dental service corporations

specializing in providing dental bene ts programs

to 50 million Americans in more than 88,000 employee

groups throughout the country. For more

information, visit


Vamos a Escuela 2008 Insercíon #53

Como conseguir una ventaja en la salud bucal

Recursos para los educadores,

los proveedores de cuidado y

los niños para conseguir una

mejor salud bucal

Contribuido por Delta Dental

Pocas cosas pueden distraer a un niño

y robarle el deseo de aprender más

rápidamente que una carie dolorosa. Al

llegar al kindergarten, un 40 por ciento de

los niños americanos ya habrán sufrido este

dolor. Es un problema que los educadores

y el personal de Head Start ven demasiado


“El acceso a los servicios de salud bucal

es el principal tema de salud que afecta a

los programas de Head Start”, dijo Robin

Brocato, especialista de la salud de la O cina

de Head Start, durante una presentación

reciente en la Conferencia de Bene cios

Comunitarios de la Asociación de Planes

Dentales Delta. Según los datos del Informe

del Programa de Head Start (PIR), un 25

por ciento de todos los niños en Head Start

necesitan cuidado dental — una gura que

ha permanecido prácticamente sin cambiar

a través de los años.

La razón para la salud bucal es indisputable.

La buena salud bucal ayuda a los niños

a aprender y crecer mejor, liberándolos del

dolor y la infección. Además, contribuye al

desarrollo normal y saludable de los rasgos

faciales y del habla, les permite comer

alimentos nutritivos, y promueve la autoestima

positiva. En cambio, las consecuencias

de una salud bucal pobre en los niños incluye

el dolor crónico, una autoestima pobre,

oportunidades de aprendizaje perdidas

debido a la ausencia escolar, di cultades

comiendo y durmiendo, y complicaciones

de salud resultando de enfermedades sin

tratar. Además, problemas relacionados al

espacio bucal cuando los dientes permanentes

comienzan a crecer pueden resultar

cuando los dientes de leche están dañados

por el deterioro y las caries.

Sin embargo, obtener para los niños el

cuidado que necesitan ha demostrado ser un

desafío que deja a muchos niños sin cuidado

dental. Aunque un 82 por ciento de los niños

matriculados en Head Start también están inscritos

en Medicaid, SCHIP, o en un programa

combinado, muchos enfrentan otras barreras,

desde el transporte hasta la disponibilidad de

dentistas que acepten Medicaid. Afortunadamente

para los niños de Head Start, existen

recursos y servicios que pueden ayudar.

Como conseguir una ventaja en la

salud bucal

Una de las metas de Head Start es identi car

las preocupaciones de salud y desarrollo infantil

y ayudar a cumplir con las necesidades

de salud básicas; la prevención juega un

papel primordial en esto. Después de 90 días

de ingresar en los programas de Head Start,

los miembros del personal determinan si los

niños están al día con su cuidado médico,

incluyendo el cuidado dental, de acuerdo con

el programa de Examen Periódico Temprano,

Diagnostico, y Tratamiento (EPSDT) estatal.

Se requiere que los programas de Head Start

trabajen con los padres para que los niños estén

al día lo más pronto posible. Si se requiere

un tratamiento, los planes de tratamiento

deben comenzar (aunque no tienen que ser

completados) 90 días después de la entrada

en el programa.

En la clase, los niños tienen un empuje

diario hacia la salud bucal con sesiones

para aprender a cepillarse los dientes. Como

parte de los estándares de actuación del

programa de Head Start, se requiere que

una vez al día los maestros o los voluntarios

en la clase, después de la comida, ayuden a

los niños de 2 años de edad y mayores a cepillarse

los dientes utilizando una cantidad

mínima de pasta dental conteniendo uoro.

Los niños más pequeños deben recibir

más ayuda para cepillarse los dientes, y a

los bebes menores del año de edad se les

deben limpiar suavemente las encías con

una gasa.

Head Start también debe proveer una

variedad de otros servicios para ayudar a

las familias a entender y tener acceso al cuidado

dental. Algunos programas trabajan

con las familias para educarlos sobre la importancia

del cuidado. Ellos pueden ayudar

a las familias a encontrar recursos para tener

acceso a cuidado asequible, incluyendo

la identi cación de dentistas que aceptan


Vamos a Escuela 2008


Medicaid o proveen servicios gratuitos o a

muy bajo costo. Algunos programas trabajan

con las familias para tramitar transporte a

las o cinas de dentistas participantes (con

consentimiento por escrito) o en asociación

con otros servicios locales para llevar clínicas

móviles a los centros de Head Start.

Como encontrar un hogar dental

La Academia Americana de Odontología

Pediátrica y Head Start se unieron recientemente

para crear la Iniciativa de Hogares

Dentales de Head Start, un programa nuevo

para asegurar que se cumpla con las necesidades

dentales de los niños pequeños. Un

hogar dental es un proveedor de cuidado

dental primario que ofrece una amplia gama

de cuidado dental, resultando en el cuidado

de la salud bucal profesional y completo,

continuamente accesible, coordinado,

culturalmente e caz, y centrado en la familia.

La meta de la iniciativa es desarrollar una

red nacional de dentistas para vincular a los

niños de Head Start con hogares dentales.

Las estrategias incluyen capacitar a los

dentistas y al personal de Head Start sobre

las prácticas para el cuidado de salud bucal

óptimo, así como proveer a los padres, a los

proveedores de cuidado, y al personal de

Head Start con la información más actualizada

sobre la salud bucal.

La Iniciativa de Hogares Dentales

comienza en septiembre de éste año en seis

estados, con once estados siendo añadidos

cada año durante los próximos cuatro años.

La asociación para la prevención

La Asociación Nacional Head Start también

trabaja con otras organizaciones para mejorar

la salud bucal de los niños pequeños.

Delta Dental ha trabajado con Head Start en

áreas especí cas de la nación a través de los

años y ahora está expandiendo su relación

para ampliar el alcance de sus programas.

Algunas de las compañías miembro de Delta

Dental han desarrollado un currículo para

educar al personal de Head Start, a los niños,

y a los proveedores de cuidado sobre la


salud bucal. Por ejemplo, el Servicio Washington

Dental (la compañía miembro de

Delta Dental que sirve al Estado de Washington),

desarrolló Cavity Free Kids, un currículo

gratuito para los residentes del estado de

Washington que incluye actividades en la

clase, reuniones con los padres, capacitación

del personal y agendas, y “paquetes de herramientas”

para el hogar”. (Para obtener más

información visite

Otros programas están trabajando para

acercar el cuidado a los niños. Por ejemplo,

Delta Dental de Dakota del Sur, provee

fondos y administra dos clínicas dentales

móviles que incluyen a centros de Head

Start en sus itinerarios de viaje. En Kansas,

Delta Dental está proveyendo seis operatorios

dentales portátiles y uno permanente

en siete de las 28 comunidades de Head

Start. Delta Dental de Massachussets está

llevando a cabo una iniciativa en gran escala

que comenzó con una evaluación inicial de

los desafíos dentro del estado. Después se

lanzó un esfuerzo para juntar a los becarios

de Head Start con proveedores de cuidado

dental para mejorar el acceso al cuidado

dental y a los hogares dentales para las

familias de Head Start; también existe un

programa continuo para evaluar el impacto

del programa así como su e ciencia, e cacia,

y la calidad de cuidado.

Recursos para la salud bucal

La Academia Americana de Odontología


La Asociación Americana de Programas

Dentales Comunitarios

El Proyecto para la Salud Dental Infantil

Delta Dental

Dientes Sanos, Sonrisas Sanas

(Healthy Teeth, Healthy Smiles)


El National Maternal and Child Oral

Health Resource Center

Y otros, como Delta Dental de Michigan

están utilizando los últimos estudios para

prevenir que ocurran las enfermedades

dentales proveyendo fondos a nivel estatal

para programas de uoro que pueden

reducir la enfermedad en los niños por un

40 a un 60 por ciento. Recientemente la

Asociación de Planes Dentales Delta y el

NHSA han expandido su asociación para

proveer recursos y herramientas adicionales

para mejorar la salud dental de más niños

de Head Start. Para aprender más sobre esta

asociación y los recursos disponibles en su

estado, visite la sección para miembros del

Sitio Web del NHSA, localizado en el www., o comuníquese con la compañía

miembro de Delta Dental local a través de

La Asociación de Planes Dentales Delta, con

sede central en Oak Brook, Illinois, es una red

nacional de corporaciones de servicio dental

independientes sin nes de lucro especializándose

en la suministración de programas de bene cios

dentales a más de 50 millones de americanos en

más de 88,000 grupos de empleados a lo largo y

ancho del país. Para obtener más información



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Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking Looking to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to to the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the

Je rey Capizzano

Vice President of Public Policy

and Research

Teaching Strategies Inc.

Bethesda, Maryland

The promise and pitfalls of Head Start reauthorization

Late last year — after years of debate, countless hearings, and thousands of

hours of advocacy by the early childhood community — Congress passed new

Head Start legislation. The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007

was celebrated on Capitol Hill as a shining example of bipartisan policymaking.

The celebration culminated with a ceremony in the Capitol that concluded with a

spirited rendition of Itsy-Bitsy Spider sung by Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, George

Miller, and other architects of the law. After four years of contentious debate over

block grants and religious discrimination in hiring, it was no surprise that those

who had worked for years on the new law broke out in song.

But is the law something that Head

Start programs can sing about? What, in

practice, do the changes in the law mean

for Head Start programs, and what should

the Head Start community be mindful of

as the O ce of Head Start implements the

new law? What new advocacy e orts will be

necessary now that the bill was passed?

To begin to address these questions,

I’ll rst summarize some of the major policy

themes of Head Start reauthorization, lay

out the potential implications for Head Start

programs, and then suggest where the Head

Start community needs to focus its next

round of advocacy e orts.

Do Head Start programs have

good reason to sing?

e impact of the Head Start reauthorization

will be determined largely by two components

of the law that are inherent in every

piece of legislation passed by Congress.

e rst is the authorizing language of the

bill. In the case of Head Start, the authorizing

language de nes what the Head Start

program is and provides the parameters

for what programs may and may not do.

Redetermination, eligibility, performance

standards, sta ng and sta quali cations,

collaboration with other programs, curriculum

and assessment requirements, and

professional development, among other

elements, are de ned by the authorizing

language. e second component is the appropriation

for the program, or the amount

of money Congress allocates to pay for

the various elements of Head Start,

including facilities, sta salaries, and

the host of other expenses a program must

cover so its doors can open each day.

Taken together these two components

have a profound e ect on whether any

legislation — including the recent reauthorization

of the Head Start — is ultimately

successful. e components are also tightly

interrelated. Authorizing language o en

provides appropriators with a ceiling for

how much may be spent on the program,

and it can be very speci c about how

funding may be spent across the di erent

program elements. On the ip side, appropriations

enable programs to do what is

asked of them by the authorizing language.

As the Head Start community is fully aware,

however, appropriations can o en fall short

of what is necessary in order to enable programs

to do what is expected of them and to

do it well.

Accordingly, when examining the

implications of the new legislation for the

Head Start community, it is important to

examine both the authorizing language and

the anticipated appropriations. In doing this

with the Head Start reauthorization, both

positive themes and some serious causes for

concern emerge. Let’s take a closer look at

some of these themes.

eme 1: e law strikes a fair balance

between program resources and expected

outcomes; if appropriations are inadequate,

however, this balance will be undermined.

38 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


When No Child Le Behind was

passed, it created a debate within the

educational community about the proper

balance that policymakers should strike

between improving “inputs” to the educational

system (like workforce development,

training opportunities, and teacher compensation)

and measuring outcomes from that

system (speci cally those related to child

outcomes). ose in the educational community

who focus on inputs share the sentiment

expressed by John Edwards during the

Iowa presidential primary: “You don’t make

a hog fatter by weighing it.” Instead, you

improve outcomes for children by recruiting

and training high-quality teachers, providing

them with the appropriate supports, and

paying them adequately. Conversely, those

with a more outcomes-focused perspective

believe that carefully de ning what

goals should be accomplished and holding

programs accountable creates pressure for

programs to establish practices that work

to meet these goals. Ultimately, the mission

of any education-related policy is to

balance these two perspectives: de ning

fair, measurable, and achievable objectives,

and providing the resources necessary for

programs to meet them.

e new Head Start legislation goes

a long way in striking the appropriate balance.

On the input side, the law de nes

professional development and speci es the

minimum number of hours of professional

development Head Start education coordinators

should obtain each year. e law also

articulates new quali cations for Head Start

sta , including that 50 percent of Head Start

teachers in center-based programs have a

baccalaureate degree or higher by September

30, 2013. Most importantly, the law authorizes

the resources to help programs pay

sta members to obtain these new quali cations.

e authorizing language allocates a

substantial portion of any new Head Start

funding for compensation that is adequate

to attract and retain quali ed sta , promote

career development, and provide assistance

for postsecondary education.

At the same time, the bill moves the

focus of accountability away from child

outcomes to what are commonly called

process outcomes. In other words, the new

law emphasizes improving those elements of

Head Start programs that are most likely to

produce positive child outcomes rather than

emphasize the child outcomes, themselves.

For example, the bill suspended and terminated

the implementation of the National

Reporting System and asks the National

Academy of Sciences to study and make

recommendations about the appropriate way

of measuring the developmental outcomes

of Head Start children. At the same time,

the law includes new ways of measuring and

holding programs accountable for internal

processes, such as the quality of teacher-children

interactions. e new law requires that

Head Start programs use an instrument to

measure classroom quality that includes assessing

aspects of teacher-child interactions

that are linked to positive child development

and later achievement. e results from this

assessment will then be used, along with

other measures, to determine the overall

quality of the program.

e accountability measures are in

no way weakened by this change in focus.

Instruments used to measure teacher-child

interactions like the Classroom Assessment

Scoring System (CLASS) have strong predictive

validity, meaning that classrooms that

score well on the instrument produce stronger

outcomes for children than classrooms

that do not. In addition, the new law limits

the duration of the designation of Head Start

programs to 5 years, and the results of the

classroom quality instrument will be used

as one of the measures to assess whether a

program will be redesignated. is creates a

serious incentive for Head Start programs to

focus on meaningful teacher-child interactions

— an e ort that will result in improved

child outcomes.

However, a key area of concern regarding

this new balance is whether appropriations

will provide the nancial support to assist

Head Start teachers in their professional

growth and to help programs pay to attract

and retain sta . According to the authoriz-

ing language of the new law, funding for this

purpose must come from new Head Start

money above and beyond what is already

appropriated. e Center for Law and Social

Policy estimates that billions of dollars are

needed to achieve the national goal of 50

percent of Head Start teachers with a baccalaureate

degree or higher by 2013 (Hart

and Schumacher, 2005). Without additional

appropriations for Head Start, the new

law’s promise to strengthen the Head Start

workforce instead becomes a debilitating

mandate for programs and their teachers.

e Head Start community also needs

to be mindful of how the O ce of Head

Start (OHS) interprets the provisions of

the new law. For example, how will OHS

measure the progress of programs toward

the national degree-requirement goals? In

addition, which classroom-quality instruments

will be chosen, and how will OHS use

data from the instrument and other sources

in the redesignation process? As the new

law requires, the O ce of Head Start has

convened an expert panel to make recommendations

about a system for the renewal

of an agency’s designation as a Head Start

provider, and the panel has started its work.

It will be critical for the Head Start community

to be engaged in the process in order to

ensure that the resulting system is fair and

that it provides an accurate assessment of

whether a Head Start program is providing

high-quality, comprehensive services.

eme 2: e new law signi cantly

improves the ability of programs to serve

children younger than age 3 through Early

Head Start; if appropriations are inadequate,

however, it will undermine this e ort.

Researchers who measure trends in

early childhood education nd that achievement

gaps between low- and higher-income

children — particularly in vocabulary

— emerge even before the age of 3 (Hart

and Risley, 1995). Moreover, economists,

including Nobel prizewinner James Heckman,

make a convincing case that the rate


of return on early childhood investments

increases as these investments are directed

toward younger and younger children

(Heckman and Masterov, 2007).

e new Head Start law includes a

series of provisions designed to improve and

expand Early Head Start. e law removes

the cap on Early Head Start funding and

allocates a signi cant portion of Head Start

expansion dollars to fund additional Early

Head Start slots. It also allows Head Start

programs to convert Head Start grants into

Early Head Start grants on the basis of the

needs of the local community and the ability

of Head Start programs to serve infants and

toddlers. Finally, the new law signi -

cantly improves the quali cations of

Early Head Start teachers and home

visitors, reserves a substantial percentage of

training and technical assistance dollars for

Early Head Start (20 percent), and requires

a specialist in infant and toddler development

be a part of a state-based training and

technical assistance network.

However, similar to the changes to

improve the quali cations of the Head Start

workforce discussed above, many of the

changes in the new law that are designed

to improve and expand Early Head Start

depend on additional appropriations. Furthermore,

while Early Head Start teachers

will be required to earn their Child Development

Associate credential by 2010, the

money necessary to support Early Head

Start teachers in earning that credential, and

any additional compensation for earning

it, will also depend on additional funding.

Without this funding, the promise the law

holds for expanding Early Head Start will

not be realized.

Moreover there are also several regulatory

issues — particularly around the

conversion of Head Start slots to Early Head

Start — that could undermine the ability of

programs to serve children younger than

age 3. For example, the conversion of Head

Start slots to Early Head Start will involve

many logistical adjustments, including ap-

propriate changes to the program space, sta

and licensure, and other adjustments. e

Head Start community will need to watch

OHS closely as it makes decisions regarding

the criteria necessary to convert slots.

Equally important, given that the cost

of caring for infants and toddlers is signi -

cantly greater than for 3- and 4-year-olds,

the Head Start community must engage in

a dialogue with OHS about the extent to

which it will allow programs to reduce their

enrollment on the basis of the number of

slots that are converted. If the reduction in

enrollment does not allow for the conversion

of slots to be cost neutral, it will create

a disincentive for Head Start programs to

convert these slots.

eme 3: e new law promotes the

school readiness of Head Start children

while supporting developmentally appropriate

practice in Head Start classrooms.

As the name implies, the fundamental

purpose of the Improving Head Start for

School Readiness Act is to enhance Head

Start’s ability to promote the school readiness

of low-income children. One concern

of the early childhood community during

reauthorization was that the legislation

would take a narrow view of school readiness

and make it di cult for Head Start

teachers to adhere to the principles of developmentally

appropriate practice. Indeed, the

distinct focus on cognitive development and

early literacy skills in earlier versions of the

legislation, coupled with the administration’s

emphasis on child outcomes, led many to

worry that Head Start would lose its comprehensive

focus and that teachers would

feel compelled to work with children in rote,

rather than meaningful, ways. If this were

allowed to happen, it was feared that Head

Start would actually work to the detriment

of children, negatively a ecting their longterm


In contrast, the nal version of the

legislation strengthens the school-readiness

components of Head Start without impeding

the ability of Head Start teachers to

adhere to the principles of developmentally

appropriate practice. In addition to the

distinct emphasis on workforce and professional

development discussed above, the

law promotes school readiness by requiring

that the curriculum used in Head Start be

based on scienti cally valid research and

by emphasizing that Head Start curricula

be comprehensive and linked to ongoing

assessment. e law also requires that the

Head Start Program Performance Standards

be updated to re ect the latest science on

early childhood development and that the

process for reviewing programs be improved

and standardized. e law also mandates

that Head Start programs conduct self-assessments

that include a goal-setting process

for improving school readiness.

At the same time, the new law protects

the principles of developmentally appropriate

practice. ese principles consist of

those outlined by the National Association

for the Education of Young Children

(NAEYC) in its position paper on the topic

(published in 1996), including the following:

• An understanding that the various domains

of child development are related,

and that early childhood programs should

address all domains of development.

• Children are active learners.

• Development and learning are in uenced

by multiple social and cultural contexts.

• Early childhood education programs

should establish reciprocal relationships

with families.

ese and other elements of developmentally

appropriate practice are protected

by the new legislation. For example, the language

guiding the revision of the Head Start

Program Performance Standards related

to school readiness cites a comprehensive

set of skills that incorporates approaches to

learning, social and emotional development,

and physical development, in addition to

language, literacy, and cognitive development.

Equally important, the revisions to

the standards must be developed with the

consultation of experts on culturally and lin-

40 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


guistically appropriate services and instruction

for English-language learners. Finally,

the language regarding curriculum requires

that programs use a developmentally appropriate,

comprehensive curriculum that

includes a focus on improving the learning

environment, teaching practices, and family


Regardless of the changes of the

new law, the extent to which appropriate

practices are implemented in Head Start

classrooms will ultimately depend on Head

Start teachers. As the NAEYC position paper

makes clear, early childhood educators

have an obligation to implement appropriate

practices to the best of their ability regardless

of the policy environment. However,

the paper also makes clear that two crucial

elements in supporting developmentally appropriate

practice include “a comprehensive

professional preparation and development


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system” and “salaries and bene ts commensurate

with the skills and quali cations” of

sta (NAEYC, 1996). Again, the promise

that the Head Start law holds for supporting

developmentally appropriate practice hinges

in part on appropriations that are allocated

for workforce development and adequate


eme 4: e new law mandates

coordination and collaboration

with other early childhood programs

and the K–12 system while protecting the

autonomy of the Head Start program.

Since Head Start was last reauthorized,

investments in early childhood education

by states and other federal sources have

increased dramatically. According to e

State of Preschool, published by the National

Institute for Early Education Research in

2007, 38 states have created or expanded

pre-kindergarten programs, and new federal

early childhood initiatives, like the Early



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Reading First program, have been introduced.

To improve the availability and quality

of services to Head Start children, a set of

changes in the new law focuses on increasing

collaboration between the Head Start

program and local early education agencies

funded by non-Head Start sources, as well

as promoting an e ective transition of Head

Start children into the K-12 system.

e new law takes a number of steps to

formalize the coordination between Head

Start and other programs serving preschool

children. At the state level, the new law

funds collaboration grants to be used to assess

the degree of collaboration among early

childhood programs within a state and to

develop a strategic plan to enhance collaboration

and coordination. At the agency level,

the bill requires that Head Start agencies

enter into a memorandum of understanding

with the local entity responsible for managing

publicly funded preschool programs.


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is memorandum must cover a host of

coordination issues related to educational

activities, service areas, training and technical

assistance, and outreach to parents. e

new law also encourages that, where appropriate,

various aspects of the Head Start

program be aligned with state early learning

standards, in addition to the Head Start

Child Outcomes Framework.

e new law also includes language to

support an e ective transition of children

into the K–12 system. e bill requires the

Head Start program to take steps to develop

a continuity of curricular objectives between

the Head Start program and the local education

agency, conduct outreach to kindergarten

teachers, and conduct joint trainings

for Head Start and school sta , including

training speci c to transition.

At the same time, the law protects the

autonomy of Head Start programs, especially

their use of a curriculum or program of

instruction. e law speci cally states that

the O ce of Head Start may not mandate,

direct, or control the selection of curricula

or programs of instruction, nor may the local

education agency require the Head Start

program to select or implement a speci c


Just as the Head Start community must

be mindful of how the O ce of Head Start

will proceed with other aspects of the law,

it also will be important to watch how these

provisions for coordination and collaboration

are interpreted.

Next steps for the

Head Start community

e new Head Start legislation holds signi -

cant promise for the future of Head Start.

In order for this promise to be realized,

however, the law’s authorizing language

must be supported by adequate appropriations,

and the regulations interpreting

the law must stay true to the intent of the

legislation. Indeed, not only do the strongest

provisions of the new law rely on an expansion

of Head Start funding, but the lack of

additional funds could turn the new law into

a signi cant nancial burden for Head Start


e FY 2008 appropriation for the

Head Start program is a worrisome indicator

of whether the promise of the new Head

Start law will be ful lled. e new Head

Start legislation authorized $7.35 billion

for the program for FY 2008, which is an

increase of $461 million for the program.

However, Congress only appropriated

$6.88 billion for FY 2008 — far short of the

authorized amount and a decrease of $10.6

million from FY 2007. is appropriation

continues a trend of at funding for the program

that in real dollars has meant, according

to the National Head Start Association,

an 11 percent cut in funding between FYs

2002 and 2007. In fact, adjusted for in a-

42 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


tion, it is estimated that funding for Head

Start has decreased by nearly $900 million.

e Head Start community can play a

signi cant role in helping the legislation live

up to its potential in three ways. e rst

is to get involved in the upcoming election.

Research the candidates’ positions on

early childhood, attend campaign events,

ask tough questions, and make sure the

candidates know that his or her position on

early childhood education matters to how

you will vote. e second is to advocate

for increased federal appropriations for

the Head Start program. Sign up for action

alerts from a national or state advocacy organization,

and when you receive an e-mail

asking you to call your congress member to

urge them to increase Head Start funding,

be sure to make the call and to encourage

your colleagues to do the same. Finally,

closely follow how the O ce of Head Start

is revising the Head Start regulations. When

o ered a chance to comment on a new Head

Start rule, take the opportunity to provide

your perspective.

Together, through these e orts, we can

ensure that the new Head Start legislation is

implemented as intended and that the children

served are truly ready for school. Now

that will be something to sing about!

Je rey Capizzano is vice president of Public Policy

and Research at Teaching Strategies Inc., publisher

of e Creative Curriculum®. He is an expert

in the eld of early childhood education and has

worked extensively with other early childhood

advocates on Head Start reauthorization. Prior

to joining Teaching Strategies, Capizzano was a

research associate at the Urban Institute, where he

published many reports and papers on early childhood

education. His research ndings have been

cited in numerous media outlets, including The

Washington Post, e Wall Street Journal, and

e Christian Science Monitor.

A draft compilation of the amended Head Start

Act is now available on the Early Childhood

Learning and Knowledge Center Web site,

located at


Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early

Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth

through Age 8, a position statement published

by the National Association for the Education

of Young Children (1996).

Making the case: Improving Head Start Teaching

Quali cations Requires Increased Investment, by

Katherine Hart and Rachel Schumacher (Center

for Law and Social Policy, 2005).

Meaningful Di erences in the Everyday Experience

of Young American Children, by Betty Hart and

Todd Risley (Brookes Publishing, 1995).

The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young

Children, by James Heckman and Dimitriy Masterov

(IZA Discussion Paper No. 2725, April 2007).

Retrieved from

The State of Preschool, by Steven Barnett,

Jason T. Hustedt, Allison H. Friedman, Judi

Stevenson Boyd, and Pat Ainsworth, (National

Institute for Early Education Research, 2007).

The author thanks Diane Trister Dodge, Kelly Boyle,

Danielle Ewen, Laurie Taub, and Ben Allen for their

comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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The Zula Patrol



A Naturally Perfect Combination

We all know that preschool children are naturally inquisitive. If you ever attempt to

count the number of times you hear the word why in one day, you’ll almost certainly

hit double digits long before snack time. Young children can’t help themselves

— to them, every day is an exciting medley of new sights, sounds, and experiences.

As teachers, we need to support this inquisitiveness and encourage children to

investigate, discuss, and interact with others in order to learn and to solve problems.

Science is the perfect catalyst to make all of this happen. It naturally encourages

children to observe, question, experiment, and make deductions — all skills

needed to succeed both in school and in rapidly changing work environments.

While the thought of making science an integral part of your curriculum — particularly

at a time when your classroom schedule is already hectic — may seem like an impossible

task, keep in mind that science doesn’t need to be taught as a separate subject. Without

much e ort, science can be seamlessly incorporated into your existing curriculum.

Starting with science

Science is a natural partner for everything that happens in your classroom, on the playground,

and even in the lunchroom. One of the best parts of adding science to your classroom

is that you don’t need to spend a lot of extra money or set aside a lot of time to prepare

materials — you just need an open mind and a little creative brainstorming. Here’s one

example of how easy it is to turn a simple science activity into a complete cross-curricular


44 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


Begin a discussion about weather. Ask

children to look outside and describe the

weather using familiar words such as sunny,

cloudy, and windy. Write the children’s

responses on the board. en give each

child a paper and show them how to cut out

a basic leaf shape. Next, have the children

take their leaves outside and ask them again

to describe what the weather is like. Is it still

or windy? If the air is still, what will happen

when they let go of their leaves? If it’s windy,

show the children how they can release

their leaves into the wind. What happened?

Which direction did the leaves blow? How

fast did they move? If you’re in a safe and

open space, let the children chase and try

to catch their paper leaves. (Now you’ve

introduced a physical component to this

inquiry-based activity.) At this point, you’ll

also want to reinforce the importance of

protecting the environment by not littering.

Later, return to the classroom and read a

book about the weather, recite a poem about

the wind, or watch a science program on

video or TV (such as an episode of e Zula

Patrol, which airs on public television, that

focuses on weather or wind).

More than ever, the right time for science is now

As early as grade 3, our children will be tested in science. The No Child Left Behind Act

requires that government and schools cultivate young children’s interest and awareness in

science, starting them on a path toward lifelong learning, investigation, and discovery.

So pat yourself on the back for enriching your early childhood curriculum with science

— you’re helping to reverse a troubling trend. The U.S. is losing its dominance in science. In fact,

the U.S. currently ranks 23rd out of 30 countries in science and math. Just 30 years ago, we were

number one! But there is some good news, too: Research shows that preschool and early elemen-

tary students are at ideal developmental stages for introducing basic science concepts because

young children natural scientists. Moreover, research also shows that science concepts introduced

to children at an early age do provide lifelong learning skills.

Simple suggestions for fitting science into the daily program

Suggestions o ered by Susan Wood, executive director of the Children’s Center at Caltech

and educational consultant to Zula.

1. The rst step for any teacher is to slow down. “Busy” teachers are usually busy because they’re

moving from topic to topic. Children will actually spend long periods of time over a single topic

because they’re really trying to understand it.

2. Keep the topics simple! Science experiments don’t need to be complex. There’s a lot to under-

stand about the properties of a simple thing like water, and spending long periods of time and

engaging in di erent methods of exploration is really a good thing.

3. Take a good look at your environment. In your daily program, is science relegated to some

abandoned table with a gold sh, a rock, a magnifying glass, and maybe a pinecone? Or has

it been integrated into everything you do? Are there stories about things around us such as

planting seeds and the weather? Are there measuring tools in all the areas so the children can

learn how to measure and how to use data?

4. Take full advantage of everything you are doing. I see a lot of programs that rush through a

mealtime even though they typically have a captive audience during that time! If we’re talk-

ing about seeds, it’s the perfect opportunity to bring an apple to the table and cut it open.

Maximize every piece of your day. Outside time is often thought of as the elementary model of

recess. It’s actually a fantastic time to be talking about things that are happening outside.

5. Hands-on means you have to have the real experience. If we’re talking about farm animals, we

have to have the real thing. O ering children plastic farms animals is not hands-on learning. By

focusing on what’s in your children’s natural environment, it’s much easier to keep everything


Be sure to look for ways to continue

building on these science activities. For example,

you might select key words, such as

wind, autumn, seasons, and so on, and then

read books on these or topics, write a class

poem, create collages, or try to create wind

sound using musical instruments. Be sure

to take note of what else the children are

curious about and then wonder your way to

the next investigation together. at’s it. See

how easy it is to incorporate science?

Follow your interests

What if leaves blowing in the wind leave

you feeling uninspired? No problem. Kick

o science in your classroom by focusing on

an activity that you enjoy. If you like plants

and gardening, try sprouting ower or bean

seeds. If you’re interested in wildlife, lead

the children on a nature walk. Even in the

most urban settings you’re bound to spot

birds such as pigeons, starlings, or crows.

Talk about where they nest and what they

eat. Is the sun your favorite star? Head


outside to chase and trace shadows. Or

maybe the children in your class are extreme

wigglers. Talk about how their bodies move,

and describe the di erent parts of the body.

Take a class poll: How many of the children

are le ies? Take it a step further and graph

the results.

Use science to help students understand

the wonder and excitement that lies in

even the most ordinary, every-day objects

and actions. Encourage their questions and

applaud their responses, even if they are

wildly o base. Like young children, science

thrives on interaction and good company.

e more your science activities overlap

with language arts, math, art, and physical

education, the better!

Because science encourages inquisitiveness,

you’re bound to be hit with dozens of

questions you can’t answer. What do you

do? Don’t sweat it. In fact, Susan Wood,

executive director of the Children’s Center

at Caltech and educational consultant to

Zula, says, “If you don’t know the answer,

that’s actually kind of ideal, because if you

do know the answer, you’re very likely to

just say it. It’s always appropriate to respond,

‘ at’s a really good question; how do you

think we can nd that out?’ I really encourage

adults, including parents, not to give

the answer. Instead, ask other questions that

lead the child to greater understanding. Give

a child a cue or a clue, such as ‘I think we

might be able to nd that out at the library.’

It’s less important what children are thinking

about than how they’re thinking about

it.” And there is no better way to model the

importance of learning new things than to

demonstrate how even you, a teacher, are

always learning too.

Activity extension for The Zula Patrol’s

“Look to the Rainbow” episode

What do you know about rainbows?

Finding out what the children already know about

a subject is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Shine a ashlight and ask questions

• What do you know about light?

• What color is light?

2. Now shine the light through a prism or onto

a compact disc. Call attention to the colors

that are visible. Draw the connection between

the ashlight as a light source and the sun and


• What do you think makes light outside?

• What does a rainbow look like?

3. Then share some pictures of rainbows.

• Have you ever seen a rainbow outside?

• What time of day did you see it?

• What was the weather like when you saw it?

• Did the outside rainbow look like the

one we just made inside?

• What do you think a rainbow is made of?

Tip: Focus on exploring questions rather than

answering them.

Tool: Record initial investigations on a KWL chart

(which you can download and print at

Researching rainbows

Nothing beats hands-on, heads-together

investigation and experimentation.

1. Organize the children into small groups.

Give each group plastic bowls of soapy water

and straws. Demonstrate how to use the straw

to blow large bubbles. The children should

take turns blowing bubbles, observing, and


2. When the sunlight hits the top and bottom

of the bubbles, the light is split and sepa-

rates into colors. Remind children what they

said during the previous activity about the color

of light. How does this experiment change that

thinking? What color is light?

3. Give each group a prism to compare the

spectrum made by the prism with the one

made by the bubbles. Or remind children

about the inside rainbow and note how it com-

pares to these outside rainbows. Reinforce that

in both cases, two things were needed to create

the rainbows: a light source and a medium that

breaks the light into colors such as raindrops,

bubbles, or prisms.

Tip: For true experimentation and exploration to

take hold, let the focus be on fun, not on the mess.

Reinforcing rainbows

Don’t move on too quickly to the next theme or

subject. Create deeper experiences by revisiting

key concepts again and again.

1. Set up tubs of water outside or on inside on

a sun-drenched windowsill.

2. Place white cardboard between the tub and

the window.

3. Place compact-size mirrors inside of the tubs

so that sunlight travels into the water, hits the

mirror, and re ects onto the cardboard. (The

water in the tub will separate the sunlight into a

rainbow of colors!) What happened? Why? How

are the room rainbows similar to the rainbows

we’ve seen elsewhere? How are they di erent?

Rainbow of resources

Family and community participation is a

sure re way to engage children and encourage


• Inform families about your study of light,

color, and rainbows. Encourage parents to

help their children go on an indoor and outdoor

“rainbow hunt.” Can they nd rainbows outside

in puddles after a rain; in fountains, waterfalls,

or sprinklers?

• Provide children with red, blue, and yellow

paint. Invite them to paint. Point out when

children have mixed pairs of colors resulting

in di erent colors. You can also invite a local

painter to your classroom, or arrange to visit a

local paint or store to watch paint being mixed.

• On a sunny day, go outside and turn on the

hose and select a “mister” setting. Have stu-

dents stand so that the sun is shining on their

backs. Move the hose around until the children

spot rainbows in the water. Discuss what is

needed in order to have a rainbow.

46 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


The Zula Patrol’s Head Start Teacher Award!

Look for details about The Zula Patrol’s Teacher Award program to be released soon! Head Start

lead teachers may apply for this award — which is sponsored by The Zula Patrol and will be

o cially awarded at the 2009 National Science Teachers Association conference in New Orleans.

The winner will receive a small cash prize, a colorful Zula Patrol plaque, a one-year NSTA mem-

bership, a stipend toward travel to the New Orleans conference, and local press coverage (news

stories and announcements). The primary goal of the award is to support early science literacy

by highlighting innovative practices in the eld. A key criterion for the award is the inclusion of

parents or families in the Head Start science program. More information about this and other

Head Start-Zula Patrol collaborations will be released in the coming months, so stay tuned!

Planting the seeds of success

It can sometimes seem hard to believe

because they have so much learning and

growing ahead of them, but what happens to

the children in your program now really can

a ect their future success. If we can capture

preschoolers’ sense of wonder while they

are young, however, we can plant the seeds

that will help them succeed beyond our

classrooms. Once the seed has been planted,

it must then be nurtured. And when this

happens, children grow and blossom into

life-long learners.

For Head Start teachers who are already

pressed for time trying to meet national,

state, and district goals, remember that,

rather than adding a whole new component,

the key is understanding how to incorporate

science into an existing curriculum.

Our goal as educators is to create life-long

learners, and the best way to do this is to

instill in children the desire to learn. Science

accomplishes this by making learning an


is article is presented by e Zula Patrol — a

national educational series on public television

designed to support science inquiry, Earth/physical

science/astronomy standards for children from preschool

to grade 2. For information on Zula’s teacher

and family workshops, e-mail

Or visit

asp for details about Zula science kits and formal

science curriculum (with special discounts for

Head Start programs).

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Using music with young

children during daily routines

By Petra Kern

You’ve most likely noticed that young children often accompany their play with

singing, chanting, rhyming, dancing, listening to music, or playing their favorite

instruments. For instance, young children can often be heard making loud motor

noises while playing with toy cars, making up rhymes while dressing dolls, or

inventing songs while playing in the bathtub. Music is a natural way for children

to explore the world and to interact with their social environment. As such, music

is an exceptional medium and motivator for encouraging and supporting young

children’s learning and development during daily transitions and routines.

Music can also encourage and facilitate inclusion. It can be used to create opportunities

for children with disabilities to successfully participate in daily life. It should be noted

that children with disabilities are not necessarily disabled in their musicality. Children with

autism, for example, o en demonstrate musical aptitudes that are equal to or higher than

those of children with other disabilities or their typically developing peers.

Because of children’s natural a nity for music, adults o en incorporate music when

they are spending time or working with children. Parents hum lullabies while rocking their

babies, many early childhood educators use music to structure classroom activities and

enhance learning, and, as a music therapist, I o en plan musical experiences for speci c

purposes such as prompting through routines or cuing transitions from one activity to the

next. Music can be used in countless ways to capture children’s attention and guide them

through the day.

Daily transitions and routines

e school day is lled with transitions,

routines, and activities, many of which are

repeated throughout the day. For many

children — both those with and without

disabilities — transitioning from one activity

to the next can be a challenge. One of

the most obvious transitions is the transition

from home to the Head Start center. In

addition, children and teachers also need

to follow routines such as cleaning up a er

free play, hand washing before breakfast,

settling down for circle time, and getting

ready for outdoor play. ese routines

require children to memorize and follow a

sequence of steps. In order to help manage

daily transitions and routines successfully,

children need structure, predictability and

consistency. Expectations should be clearly

conveyed to them and ideally repeated by

all of the adults in the same manner.

Music and sounds are excellent cues

that can be used to signal and structure

transitions and routines. Music can also

be used to convey a message or a sequence

of steps that needs to be memorized and

recalled in di erent situations. In general,

music can be used during daily transitions

and routines to…

• Cue an activity or event.

• Prompt a sequence of steps.

• Stimulate learning in all developmental


• Distract from undesired behaviors.

• Reinforce positive behavior.

• Create a stimulating or relaxing


Now let’s take a look at some evidencebased

musical activities and strategies that

can be used throughout the day. For the

examples in this article, I’ve used a typical

classroom schedule followed by children

and teachers at the FPG Child Care Pro-

gram at the University of North Carolina

in Chapel Hill. You may, of course, need to

adapt the ideas presented here to suit your

classroom schedule and individual situation.

To provide consistency and help ease

transitions at home, parents should also be

encouraged to use these strategies with their


7:30-9 a.m. — Arrival time

Scenario: Ben, a 3-year-old boy with autism,

holds onto his caregiver every morning

when entering his inclusive classroom.

While his peers play with toys and each

other, Ben ignores the warm welcome of his

classroom teacher and cries.

Musical strategy: Using music as a prompt

and distraction — in this example to ease

the transition from home to school.

Musical activity: To ease Ben’s morning

arrival time, I composed a simple song that

includes the ve desirable steps of greeting

indicated by the classroom teachers and

caregiver (see Song for Ben above). When

Ben arrives in the morning, the teachers and

caregiver sing the song and act out the lyrics.

Ben then uses a picture symbol of a stick

gure waving “Hello,” which he hands over

to an adult or peer, as a greeting. e classroom

teachers encourage Ben to accomplish

the ve steps of greeting independently; a

prompt is only used when necessary.

9-9:15 a.m. — Clean up time

Scenario: Andy, a 3-year-old boy with

autism, is playing alongside six of his classmates,

some of who also have special needs.

When it is time for the class to clean up before

circle time, Andy does not put away his

toys. When his teacher tries to assist him in

ful lling the task, Andy has a slight tantrum.



Musical strategy: Using music as a cue;

in this case, music is used to signal that it’s

time to put away toys.

Musical activity: To improve Andy’s participation

in putting away his toys, the classroom

teacher sings the Barney and Friends

“Clean Up” tune:

Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.

Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.

9:15-9:30 a.m. — Circle time

Scenario: is school year, Maggie and her

teaching team decided to include new strategies

to further enhance pre-literary skills

of the 4- to 5-year-olds in their classroom.

Looking into the research literature, she discovered

that music can enhance pre-reading

and writings skills in young children. Maggie

consults with the music therapist and

asked for musical pre-literacy activities that

are easy to implement.

Musical strategy: Using music as a prompt

and also as a way of stimulating academic

learning, such as enhancing pre-literacy

skills illustrated in this example.

Musical activity: e music therapist prepares

the following list of musical activities

and o ers to demonstrate them during the

classroom’s circle time:


• Have children tap out syllables on di erent

body parts or a drum when practicing new

names or vocabulary. For example: Mo-nica

or lem-on-ade.

• Teach phonemic awareness by placing the

loudest drum beat on the emphasized letter

of the word. For example: For A-na-belle,

the loudest drum beat would be on A.

• Identify letters of the alphabet by singing

the alphabet song paired with large

print letters. Sca old the song activity by

pausing at di erent letters and letting the

children nd the corresponding printed

letter placed on the oor.

• Provide picture books based on songs or

rhythmical text (for example, e Jazz Fly,

Philadelphia Chickens, Chicka ChickaBoom

Boom, or Five Little Monkeys). Ask children

to put their index nger on the rst

word and follow along with their nger

under the words as you sing the song.

• Work on comprehension skills by singing

a song and discussing the content of the

song or letting children act out the content

of the song with props. Ask the children to

guess what might happen in the following

verses of the song.


• Engage children in free painting or drawing

while listening to recorded music.

Ask them to match the style (for example,

classical, pop, blues, or jazz) and pace, or

tempo, of the music when drawing.

• Have children copy a drawing of a letter.

Sound out the letter while drawing the

lines with a crayon.

• Ask children to make up a song about

“putting your pencil to the le and

scribble to the right” while making marks

or “writing” from le to right on a piece

of paper.

• Ask children to listen carefully to the

lyrics of a song, and then have them

illustrate the song.

9:30-10 a.m. — Breakfast

Scenario: Andy, who has learned to put his

toys away when his teacher sings to him,

now learns how to wash hands using a song

about washing hands.

Musical strategy: Using music as a prompt,

in this instance to teach the washing of

hands as part of the breakfast routine.

Musical activity: To teach Andy the seven

steps of hand washing practiced by all

children in the class, his teacher sings the

familiar tune “Row Your Boat” except with

the following new lyrics:

Turn, turn, turn it on, turn the water on.

Lalala lalala lalala la, turn the water on.

Wet, wet, wet your hands, wet your hands

right now.

Lalala lalala lalala la, wet your hands

right now.

Get, get, get the soap, get the soap right now.

Lalala lalala lalala lala la, get the soap

right now.

Rub, rub, rub your hands, rub your

hands right now.

Lalala lalala lalala la, wet your hands

right now.

Rinse, rinse, rinse them o , rinse them

o right now,

Lalala lalala lalala la, rinse your hands

right now.

Turn, turn, turn it o , turn the water o .

Lalala lalala lalala la, turn the water o .

e teacher then gives Andy a paper

towel and praises him for following the

musical directions during the hand washing


10-11:30 a.m. — Free choice

and structured activities

Scenario: Four-year-old Fred seeks frequent,

intense, and varied sensory experiences.

He likes to actively explore the world

by touching, hearing, tasting, seeing, and

smelling. To address Fred’s needs for frequent

sensory experiences and active exploration

of his environment, his teachers o en

build in sensory play, which all children in

the class seem to enjoy. One of Fred’s teachers

observed that he likes to explore di erent

sounds, so he set up a table at which the

children could build an ocean drum.

Musical strategy: Using music to stimulate

children’s senses.

Musical activity: To provide Fred and his

classmates with a variety of sensory stimuli,

the teacher incorporates an activity she

learned during an in-service training on

50 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


how to build small instruments and use

them during circle time (see the instructions

for making an ocean drum).

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. —

Playground time

Scenario: Lucas is a 3-year-old boy with

autism who likes to run and spin objects

such as balls on the playground. While other

children engage in pretend play and act out

di erent roles in a re ghter game, Lucas

runs into some children and takes their toys

away. e other children are upset; Lucas is

also upset because he does not yet understand

how to play and share toys with his

peers. Lucas does, however, like to engage

in music and dance activities with his peers

during circle time.

Musical strategy: Using music both as a

prompt and to reinforce positive behavior,

namely engaging in positive peer interactions

during outdoor play.

Building an ocean drum

By Petra Kern


• Two blue transparent interlocking plastic

plates, at least 9.4” x 8.6” in diameter.

• Colored plastic beads

• Blue duct tape


• Place two small handfuls of plastic beads

on one plate.

• Flip the second plate upside down and place

it over the plate that has beads on it.

• Align latches and press the rims together

to close.

• Duct tape the rim of the plates so the beads

are carefully sealed for safety.

How to play the instrument:

Activate the ocean drum by circling the beads

slowly inside the plates.


• Explore di erent ways of playing the ocean

drum; for example, shake it, tap it, role the

beads from one side to the other. Listen to

the di erent sounds.

• Play slow and fast, soft and loud.

• Watch the beads roll and swirl.

• Imitate the ocean sound using your voice.

• Ask children if they have seen the ocean before

and what images and stories come to mind

when they think of the ocean.

• Orchestrate the di erent sounds and conduct

an “ocean music” piece. Have children take

turns conducting.

• Play the ocean drum along with guided imagery

as part of a meditation or relaxation exercise.


• Assist children with disabilities in building

their own ocean drum.

• Prompt children with disabilities to explore

the instrument.

• Interact with children with disabilities by

playing the ocean drum together.

Musical activity: To support Lucas’ peer

interaction and teach him and other

children how to play with each other, the

early childhood education team decides to

bring music to the outdoor environment.

e Music Hut, which includes a gong, six

drums, a cymbal, sound tubes, an ocean

drum, and a marching drum, is a big attraction

for all the children. To structure Lucas’

peer interaction through music, I composed

a song called “Lucas’ Dance” (see sidebar)

that taps into his interests and strengths. e

classroom teacher sings the song with Lucas

and all children in the Music Hut, and acts

out the lyrics of the song.

12:30-1 p.m. — Lunch

Scenario: Susie is 3 years old and has multiple

developmental delays associated with

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, a congenital

syndrome characterized by slow growth and

small stature, cognitive delays that are usually

severe to profound, digestive problems,

and hearing and/or visual impairment. Susie




does not use words or gestures to communicate

her needs. During lunch time, her

teachers o er her choices for beverages and

food. Because Susie has not yet learned to

respond to simple yes and no questions, her

teachers are increasingly frustrated and are

very eager to nd an intervention that will

help Susie indicate or say yes and no. Realizing

that Susie participates enthusiastically

during music activities at circle time, her

classroom teachers consulted with me to

nd out if a song intervention might assist

Susie in learning to make and communicate


Musical strategy: Using music as a prompt

and also to stimulate learning — in this case

to facilitate making choices.

Musical activity: To assist Susie in learning

gestures for yes (for example, nodding

your head) and no (for example, shaking

our head) and also to say yes and no when

“I was pleasantly surprised to see the direct application

of learning to my career. Each and every aspect of

the reading, discussion, and homework assignments

directly related to what I do with children and families!”

Erin Hanson

o ered a choice, I composed a Yes and No

song and introduced it to Susie, her classmates,

and her teachers during circle time.

A er three rounds of singing and posing

both serious and silly questions to all of the

children, everyone had learned the song. I

encourage the children and classmates to

use the “Yes and No” song whenever they

ask Susie a question. As soon as Susie demonstrates

that she understands the concept

of nodding for yes and shaking her head for

no, the teachers will gradually fade out parts

of the song until Susie no longer needs the

song as a prompt to respond.

1:30-3:30 p.m. — Naptime

Scenario: Sarah is a typically developing

4-year-old who, like many of her classmates,

becomes quite tired a er an eventful morning

at the center. Because she’s usually busy

thinks about the many exciting things she

could be doing, Sarah o en has a hard time

settling onto her cot for naptime.

Musical strategy: Using music to enhance


Musical activity: To help calm Sarah and

her classmates, the teacher invites all of

the children to lie down on their cots, get

comfortable, and listen to guided imagery

supported by music (for example, Pachelbel:

Forever by the Sea) from the classroom’s

relaxation CD collection. As soon as the

music starts, the classroom teacher says the

following in a soothing voice:

Find your cot and stretch out on your back.

Take a deep breath in and squeeze all your

muscles tight.

Now relax all your muscles and let all

your energy out with a long aaahhhh.

Close your eyes and let your body relax.

Count to 10, slowly and silently.

Keep your eyes closed, and pretend you are

lying on the beach, on a warm sunny day.

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Pretend you can see the waves, coming up

over the sand and going back out to the

ocean again.

Listen to the waves, coming up on the shore

and then going back to the ocean.

Breathe in and out, in and out, just like the

waves coming in and going out, over and

over again.

(Repeat, more quietly) Breathe in and out,

in and out, just like the waves coming in

and going out, over and over again.

Now, listen quietly to the music, and rest….

4-4:30 p.m. — Snack time

Scenario: A er naptime, 5-year-old Frederick

can’t wait for his snack. When no one is

paying attention, his little hands grab at the

bowls lled with fruits and cookies. When

his teacher tells him to wait and share the

snack with his friends, he gets frustrated

and slaps at the table.

Musical strategy: Using music as a cue as

well as to reinforce positive behavior, such

as self-control in this example.

Musical activity: To assist Frederick in

developing self-control and delaying grati-

cation, his teacher engages him and his

classroom peers in the following song, using

sign language for the word wait. Later, she

encourages the children to initiate the song

with each other during lunchtime and other

situations during which there might be

some waiting time.

4:30-5:30 p.m. — Playground

time and family pick up

Scenario: It’s the end of an eventful day

at the center. Rebecca, a classroom teacher,

and her class are going on the playground

where children will engage in free play until

they are picked up by their families. Some

of the children are simply too tired to run

around and aren’t quite sure what to do

with the remaining time.

Musical strategy: Music as a cue, for

example, when it’s time to say good-bye

and re ect upon the day.

Musical activity: To involve children who

are less engaged in free play, Rebecca o ers

to sing a good-bye song about the things

that each child enjoyed during the day. To

encourage parents to sing along as they pick

up their children, Rebecca uses the familiar

song “Old McDonald had a Farm” and

improvises the following lyrics:

Now it’s time to say good-bye,

I had a happy day.

When mommy or daddy picks me up,

this is what I say…

e teacher then prompts the child verbally.

For example: “What are you going to tell

your mom or dad you did today?” e children

then call out favorite activities such as

painting, playing on the playground, eating

a snack. e teacher then builds in activities

in the second part of the song.

For example…

With a paint, paint here and a

playground there.

Here a lunch, there a snack,

everywhere a snack, snack.

Go to

to nd songs for classroom transitions.

Now it’s time to say good-bye,

I had a happy day.

Musical transitions

Looking more closely at the classroom

schedule, we can identify many times during

the day when transition must occur. For

example, transitioning from home to school,

free play to circle time, circle time to breakfast,

breakfast to group activities, group

activities to outdoor play, outdoor play to

lunch, lunch to naptime, naptime to outdoor

play, and outdoor play to departure. ese

are all wonderful opportunities to incorpo-

rate music and to use the musical strategies

discussed earlier. Again, this might entail

singing transition songs that are commercially

available, making up new lyrics to a

familiar tune, or using an instrument to cue

a certain behavior or response, for instance,

using a triangle to let the children know that

it’s time to go outside or nger cymbals to

cue listening during circle time.

Songs are a good way to announce

changes and help prepare children for an

upcoming activity. Because children learn

through repetition, transition songs should

be sung repeatedly until the transition is

completed. When singing a transition song,

sing directly to the children and model the

task at hand. If needed, give children some

physical prompts until they learn what is

expected from them during the speci c

transition. To ensure successful transitions,

it is important that you have the next

activity ready or arrive at the appropriate

location as soon as the transition song ends.

And the same transition songs should be

used across di erent environments and by

everyone who works with the children. Be

sure to share songs with parents and other

caregivers so they can also use the song for

transitions outside of the center.

Steps in creating your own

transition song

1. Choose a speci c transition (for example,

transitioning from hand washing to


2. Pick a familiar tune (for example,

If You’re Happy and You Know It).

3. Identify keywords (for example, breakfast,

seat, eat, juice, fruit)

4. Fit the words to the familiar tune. If you

want your song to rhyme, you could use

a songwriter’s rhyming dictionary to

help you create the lyrics.

5. Modify the song by including objects

or pictures symbols when working with


children who have special needs (for

example, a piece of fruit or a picture

symbol from Mayer-Johnson’s Boardmaker

indicating breakfast).

Sample song:

Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It

If you’re ready for your breakfast,

nd your seat.

If you’re ready for your breakfast,

come let’s eat.

We will have some juice and fruit,

Toast and jelly which tastes so good.

If you’re ready for your breakfast,

nd your seat.

Sound cues

We all hear sound cues throughout the day.

Perhaps we hear church bells that let us

know it’s noon or a repeated dinging as we

exit the car lets us know we le the car lights

on. Sound cues can also be embedded into

children’s daily routines as a way to cue transitions

(such as transitioning from outdoor

to indoor). When the signal is immediately

and repeatedly paired with the action,

children quickly learn to anticipate what

comes next when they hear the sound cue.

Children o en enjoy taking an active part

in activating the sound cue themselves. For

example, each day a di erent child might

be assigned the task of ringing of a triangle

when it’s time for the children to go inside

for lunch. When working with children with

special needs who use picture symbols, be

sure to pair sound cues with visuals.

Summing it up

When applied intentionally and used in

a systematic manner, music can be a

Evidence of effi ciency

Research indicates that music can be e ectively used to enhance socialization, self-expression,

communication, motor development, and cognitive functioning of young children with and

without disabilities. In keeping with recommended practices in early childhood education, music

interventions may be embedded into children’s daily routines to support individual learning goals.

A series of single-case studies conducted at the FPG Child Care Program demonstrated


• Individual song interventions may be e ective in increasing the independent performance of

young children with autism during the morning transition and multi-step self-care routines.

• Music may help expand children’s level of peer interactions on the playground.

• Teachers can implement musical intervention strategies successfully when training and monitoring

by a music therapist are provided.

A summary of the single case studies can be downloaded on the FPG Web site, www.fpg.unc.

edu (see snapshot #35, #39, and #45). The songs used in the playground study are published in the

songbook noted below, along with project descriptions and guidelines for writing and measuring

IEP goals using a song.

The ideas and strategies proposed in the musical transitions section of this article represent

common practices used by music therapists when working with young children. They also stem

in part from a presentation and an informal pilot study conducted by Humpal and Register (2004,

2007). Results of the three case examples from this pilot study indicated that transition songs…

• Helped children respond more quickly to



• Elicited a greater level of calmness among

Best Practices in Music Therapy Monograph:

children during times of transition.

Early Childhood and School Age, edited by

• Facilitated a sense of group cohesiveness. M Humpal and C. Colwell (American Music

• Were well received by teachers as a way to Therapy Association, 2006).

manage the classroom.

Fact sheet: Music Therapy and the Young Child,

wonderful tool for helping you manage the

classroom and enhance children’s learning.

Song interventions can easily be embedded

into daily routines with minimal time

and e ort but with tremendous results.

As an early childhood professionals, allow

yourself the freedom to tap into your natural

a nity for music and add a little harmony

to the day!

Petra Kern, MT-BVM, MT-BC, MTA, is a

clinician, educator, and researcher in music

therapy. Her work focuses on young children,

inclusion, autism, and visual impairments. She

currently is a visiting scholar at the FPG Child

Development Institute, UNC at Chapel Hill and

serves on faculty at SUNY New Paltz. Kern is

passionate about bringing music to the daily

lives of children and families.

Additional information about music therapy for early childhood education settings (including a

comprehensive review of the research literature addressing all of the topics mentioned in this article)

can be found in the American Music Therapy Association’s Fact sheet: Music Therapy and the Young

Child. Go to for more information.

published by the American Music Therapy

Association (2001).

“Improving the Performance of a Young Child

with Autism during Self-Care Tasks Using

Embedded Song Interventions: A Case Study,”

by P. Kern, L. Wakeford, and D. Aldridge, [Music

Therapy Perspectives, 25 (1), 2007].

Songbook Vol. 1: Songs and Laughter on the

Playground, by P. Kern and M. A. Snell (De La

Vista Publisher, 2007).

Tips for Tuneful Transitions, by M. Humpal and

D. Register, presented at the 6th Annual AMTA

Conference (2004).

“Use of Songs to Promote Independence in

Morning Greeting Routines for Young Children

with Autism,” by P. Kern, M. Wolery, and D. Al-

dridge, (Journal of Autism and Developmental

Disorders, 37, 2007).

“Using Embedded Music Therapy Interventions

to Support Outdoor Play of Young Children with

Autism in an Inclusive Community-Based Child

Care Program,” by P. Kern and D. Aldridge,

[Journal of Music Therapy, 43 (4), 2006].

“Using Musical Transitions in Early Childhood

Classrooms: Three Case Examples,” by D.

Register, and M. Humpal, [Music Therapy

Perspectives, 25 (1), 2007].

54 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008



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lead the way in delivering exceptional early

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For more information

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by Georgina Peacock and Amanda Perez


Autism Spectrum Disorders

in Very Young Children

Andrew is 20 months old. For the past two months, he has been enrolled in a local

Early Head Start program. Carolyn, Andrew’s Head Start caregiver, is impressed

at how Andrew’s mother has learned to understand his needs. Andrew’s mother

talks about how independent he is, always wanting to do things himself. When he

is hungry, he goes to the refrigerator and gets his milk. If he can’t reach something

he wants, he uses his mom’s hand as a tool to get it. While he makes a variety of

sounds and babbled “mama” and “dada” at around 11 months, Andrew does not

use words to express his needs or to communicate.

Jaden, now 22 months old, is also new to his home-based Early Head Start

program. In initial home visits, his parents reported that he was an “early talker.”

Jaden’s favorite toy is a eece dog that sings when you press its belly. Jaden sings

the song over and over again and has pressed the dog’s belly so much that the

eece is worn and shiny there. Jaden takes his dog everywhere and gets very

upset if he can’t nd it. In describing this, Jaden’s parents tell their home visitor,

Khadija, that Jaden “knows what he wants.” Khadija agrees but notices that,

despite “talking” a lot, Jaden rarely makes eye contact and doesn’t seem to use

language to get what he needs. When he isn’t able to communicate, he cries or

screams out of frustration. He isn’t able to follow simple commands. Even when

Jaden’s mother points to his sneakers and says “bring me your shoes,” Jaden

does not respond.

Carolyn and Khadija are both concerned

about these two di erent little boys,

and rightly so. Screenings for Andrew and

Jaden reveal concerns about communication

and social-emotional development.

In keeping with the Head Start Program

Performance Standards, both boys are

promptly referred to their local early intervention

programs for further evaluation.

Eventually, with the input from family,

sta , and early interventionists, doctors

diagnose Andrew and Jaden with Autism

Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).



What you need to know and how you can help

ASDs have become a “hot topic” in the

media in the past few years. e Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism

and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring

(ADDM) Network released data

in 2007 that showed that about 1 in 150

children in selected communities across

the United States had an ASD. Sta in Head

Start programs working with infants and

toddlers likely serve young children with

ASDs and may, in fact, be the professionals

who identify developmental concerns and

link families with crucial early intervention

services. While there is no cure for ASDs,

early intervention can greatly improve a

child’s development. In your role, what do

you need to know about ASDs? And how

can you help?

Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASDs are a group of complex developmental

disabilities that cause substantial

impairments in social interaction and

communication. e symptoms of

ASDs are present during early childhood

and last throughout a person’s life.

Scientists do not yet know the cause, but it

is thought that both genetics and environmental

factors are likely to play a role. ASDs

a ect children’s language, social-emotional,

and/or cognitive development. Just as the

name suggests, the symptoms and the

intensity of symptoms of ASDs vary in the

children who have them. Some children

with ASDs are mildly a ected while others

are severely a ected. e thinking and

learning abilities of people with ASDs also

varies — from gi ed to severely challenged.

Autistic disorder is the most commonly

known type of ASD, but there are others,


including “pervasive developmental

disorder-not otherwise speci ed”

(PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

Of course, all young children are

developing cognitive, language, and

social-emotional skills as they grow. Even

typically developing infants and toddlers

must learn over time to manage transitions,

engage in meaningful interactions with

adults, and use their imaginations. Still, it

is helpful to recognize some of the red ags

associated with ASDs. Remember that in

isolation many of these behaviors are typical

in young children. However, a pattern

of these unusual behaviors, persistent use

of these behaviors over time, or impaired

communication or social skills are causes

for concern. As you observe children, you

should both trust your instinct and use

your knowledge of typical development to

identify possible concerns. Now let’s take

a look at some of the behaviors and symptoms

common to ASDs.

In comparison to their same-age

peers, a young child with an ASD may…

• Have trouble relating to others or not

have an interest in other people at all.

• Avoid eye contact and want to be alone.

• Prefer not to be held or cuddled.

• Have unusual trouble expressing her

needs using typical words or motions.

• Appear to be unaware when other people

talk to him but respond to other sounds

(for example, a child might not answer to

his name but may look up when he hears

an airplane in the sky).

• Repeat actions over and over again in a

persistent or obsessive way, o en without

obvious purpose (for example, icking

ngers or rocking back and forth).

• Have extreme trouble adapting when

a routine changes.

• Have unusual reactions to the way

things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound.

• Not smile on his own by 5 months

or laugh by 6 months.

• Not try to attract attention through

actions by 7 months.

• Show no interest in games of

peek-a-boo by 8 months.

• Repeat or echo words or phrases said

to her, in ways unlike same-age peers,

or repeat words or phrases in place of

normal language (echolalia).

• Have other language delays (for example,

no single words like “mama” or “dada”

by 12 months, or no words by 18 months).

• Not look at objects when another person

points at them by 12 months.

• Not play pretend games (for example,

pretending to feed a doll) by 24 months.

• Not point at objects to show interest

by 24 months.

• Lose skills he once had (for instance,

a child may stop saying words he was

once using).

Sta in Head Start programs are

uniquely able to support families in identifying

developmental concerns, accessing

early intervention, and implementing

service plans related to ASDs. Head Start

professionals who work with the youngest

children and their families develop relationships

that allow ongoing observation

and discussion about child development.

Sta also conduct formal screenings and

ongoing assessment of children, as required

by the Head Start Program Performance

Standards, and recognize early warning

signs of developmental delay. When sta

members act early on concerns and talk

with parents about what they see, children

are able to bene t from the earliest intervention.



What you can do:

Program directors and managers

Providing comprehensive developmental

services includes supporting families as

developmental concerns are identi ed,

diagnoses are made, and services are

implemented in your inclusive setting. To

support families and sta and to help set

a positive tone during what is likely to be

an emotionally challenging time, create an

atmosphere that promotes the following:

• A sound understanding of development:

Head Start sta members need

to have a strong foundation in typical

infant-toddler development. With this

knowledge and the screening and ongoing

assessment required by the Head

Start Program Performance Standards,

sta members can help families identify

potential delays and concerns at the

earliest opportunities. Because children

with ASDs sometimes lose skills they

once had, documentation is especially


• Observation: In their ongoing work

with families, Head Start sta members

have the opportunity to observe children

develop over time. Talk with sta about

the importance of careful observation,

encourage them to talk about what they

observe, and help them evaluate and

contemplate their observations.

• Strong relationships among sta , families,

and children: Healthy relationships

enable sta to observe children’s behavior,

deliver appropriate curriculum, and

provide information about screening and

assessment to families. As an administrator,

it is crucial that you recognize that

identifying a delay or a disability like

autism can raise many complex issues for

families and sta alike. O er information

on sharing screening results with

families and supporting them through





an evaluation. Talk with sta about how

they are handling the emotional weight

of this process. In addition, because

ASDs a ect communication and social

skills, it is particularly important to talk

with sta about potential challenges of

parenting and working with children

who may struggle to communicate or

interact with others, including their


• Strong partnerships with community

organizations: As the Performance Standards

suggest, work with young children

with conditions like ASDs requires the

coordinated e ort of community partners.

Local early intervention programs

provide evaluation and services to support

the development of young children

with delays and disabilities. To the extent

possible, those services must be delivered

in a child’s natural setting — such as an

Early Head Start classroom. erefore,

as an administrator, you should work to

develop partnerships that allow mutual

support between programs and program

sta , provide shared training opportunities,

and maximize available resources. It

is important to identify community resources

that speci cally support families

as they learn about and cope with autism

and related disorders. To get you started,

the Autism Society of America has an

online database of autism services and

supports within a community (located

online at


• Individualization: Head Start programs

are required to provide individualized

services to all children. When young

children share particular diagnoses,

however, it can be tempting to simply

do for one child what has been done

for another. Remember that ASDs are

expressed di erently from child to child,

and the service plans for each child will

also di er, re ecting the individual


Tip: Are you looking for a convenient way to connect with other professionals

and experts to discuss issues involving Autism Spectrum Disorders? If so,

consider joining an e-mail discussion group. The National Institutes of Health has

an autism list. To sign up, go to

Here are a few others:

• St. Johns University at

• University of Arizona Tucson Autism Listserv at

• Open Georgia Autism Listserv at

needs of the child, the wishes of the family,

and the community resources that

are available.

What you can do: Teachers and

home visitors

e behaviors of children with ASDs can

be confusing, challenging, and sometimes

disruptive for families and sta . Even a er

children are diagnosed, there are always

many questions that remain. e relationships

you build with children and families

can be a valuable source of support for

families as they identify and learn about

ASD and how it a ects their children.

Here are some suggestions:

• Share your observations: Even as you

start to build relationships with families,

share your observations about a child’s

development and encourage families

to do the same with you and others in

your program. By doing so, conversation

about a child’s developing skills becomes

a natural and regular component of your

interactions with families. e Centers

for Disease Control and Prevention’s

Learn the Signs. Act Early. campaign

(go to for more

information) is designed to teach parents

about developmental milestones and

early warning signs of delay. Information

from reputable sources such as

this can provide tremendous support

in your conversations about development.

Remember, too, that families

know their children best and, therefore,

are an invaluable help to you and your

colleagues. Always be considerate and

sensitive when sharing your concerns

with families, and listen attentively when

families do the same.

• Learn about ASDs: e early signs of

ASDs (listed earlier) may help you better

understand the children you serve.

ey can also help you make informed

referrals to early intervention services.

Remember, however, that ASDs can only

be diagnosed by trained professionals.

Discuss your developmental concerns

and observations with families, but allow

others to make the o cial diagnoses.

• Involve families in screening, referral,

and ongoing assessment: As you conduct

screenings and formal assessments,

talk with families about what you are

doing and why. Whenever you identify

a concern, talk with families about what

you see and listen carefully to their

responses. Answer their questions about

evaluation and early intervention programs.

And emphasize the importance

of early intervention and the di erence it

can make for children with developmental


• Celebrate strengths: Like all children,

children with ASDs have many strengths

and talents. Be sure to talk with families

about their children’s positive attributes

and accomplishments. And ask them

to share the things they celebrate about

their children. As families face early

intervention evaluations and possible diagnoses,

they o en appreciate reminders

of their children’s positive qualities and



Of course, a child who is diagnosed

with an ASD will need individualized

services that are developed in partnership

with the family and early intervention

practitioners. In general, it is helpful to

do the following:

• Keep communicating with children:

Talk in simple sentences. Get down on

the child’s level and try to make eye

contact. When appropriate, use hand

gestures (pointing, waving, and so on)

along with spoken language to communicate.

• Provide help with transitions: Many

children with ASDs resist changes. Giving

advance warning or notice before an

activity begins (or ends) can signi cantly

decrease transition problems. For example,

use songs to signal that it is time

to clean up and get ready for a new activity.

ese kinds of transition activities

can help prepare all children for changes

to come. Visuals can also be very helpful

in supporting children with ASDs (and

all young children!) with transitions.

Create a daily schedule for children that

includes pictures of the activities that

they will be doing during the day.

• Pay attention to cues: Like all children,

children with ASDs will try to communicate

their needs, whether it is that

they are hungry, tired, or in need of a

diaper change. For children for whom

communication is challenging, however,

it is particularly important that you try

to recognize and pay special attention to

what may be very subtle cues.

• Be consistent: Like all children, children

with ASDs need consistent limits

to help them self-regulate and control

their behaviors. If a child is exhibiting

an undesirable behavior, use redirection

whenever possible. For example, if

a child is grabbing at a toy that another

child is playing with, gently brush

his hand away and redirect him to

another toy.

Jaden and Andrew are lucky to be

involved HS-009 RPS in Early Ad-vFNL Head Start programs.

Children and Families Magazine


4.75 x 7






- half page






June 13, 2008


Research is the rock on

which we build everything

we do. High/Scope leads

education with over four

decades of groundbreaking

early childhood research;

research that is benchmarked

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Application. Sometimes,

facts on paper don’t

float in the real world.

High/Scope products have

had tens of thousands of

real-life classroom hours

to demonstrate the validity

and effectiveness of our

research findings and

product design.



edgeable and caring early childhood

educators like Carolyn and Khadija, families

do not have to navigate the di cult

process of referral, evaluation, diagnosis,

service planning, and intervention alone

and children can get critical services to

help them thrive.

Research. Application. Validation.

No single step in the High/Scope process stands on

its own—and our process never ends. Our rigorous,

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that High/Scope offers the most effective, substantive

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Validation. What works,

stays. What doesn’t

work, we cut out. Unlike

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when we discover there is

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we do it.



Science for

Young Explorers

“Nature” is

Wherever You Are!

by William Ritz

When we think about nature, the images that arise are often of places like

Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon. And while these are without

a doubt extraordinary examples of nature — perhaps even nature in its grandest

form — they just aren’t easily accessible to most of us. So I invite you to start

seeing the world around you — wherever that may be — as yet another remarkable

place in which you and the children in your classroom can explore nature in

wonderful new ways. After all, every school or home is within walking distance

of interesting living and nonliving things: pets, birds, plants, colors, and shapes.

The kind of nature walks you take is limited only by your imagination.

The power of observation

Young children need plenty of opportunities

to practice and develop basic observational

skills. Whether they grow up to be

scientists, writers, artisans, or technophiles,

all children will bene t from the ability

to observe their surroundings, to make

comparisons, and to reason. In addition to

being a good introduction to science and

nature, going on regular nature walks is

also a fun, engaging way to alert children to

the many interesting things in their everyday

world that they might otherwise never

have noticed.

To get you and the children in your

class started, try going on a few “sensory

walks” around the neighborhood. You

won’t need many tools or instruments for

these journeys. Since they are “scienti c

eld trips,” you and the children should

make sure that all of your “sensors” are

ready before you head out. Let the children

know that the most important tools they’ll

need on the nature walk are their “built in

tools” — their eyes, ears, nose, hands, and

perhaps even their taste buds (although

warn children carefully that this last tool

must be used very carefully and sparingly

and only when an adult says it’s OK). You’ll

also want to take along something to keep

track of the children’s observations: paper

for writing or drawing, a few pencils, and

maybe a digital camera or tape recorder.

Remind the children that when we engage

in science or nature activities, it’s important

to keep track of the things we observe!

Sensory neighborhood walks

e rst of your sensory walks around the

neighborhood could be one that focuses on

the sense of sight — in this case, the eyes

have it! Select a common shape — perhaps

a square, triangle, or circle — and tell the

children that you want to see how many

things they can nd that match that shape.

To remind children of what the shape looks

like, give them each a small construction

paper cutout of the shape you selected.

As you walk around the neighborhood,

ask children to nd things that are the

same shape. Remember to record their

observations (or have them record their

observations using drawings). And when

the children point out matching shapes, ask



them to talk about what they’ve found. If

someone has trouble “seeing” the shape for

which you’re looking, ask the children who

have spotted items to describe how they did

it. Shape walks are a nice way to reinforce

children’s understanding of what shapes

look like while simultaneously encouraging

children to look much more carefully at

features of their neighborhood that may too

o en be seen but not truly observed.

More ideas for sensory walks

On another outing, ask the children to

focus on colors. Review some basic colors,

and then ask the children to help you pick a

color to hunt for on your nature walk. You

might also want to discuss shades of color,

so be prepared to show them a variety of

di erent shades of green if that’s the color

your class selected. Before going on your

walk, also have the children suggest some

items you’re likely to come across that

match the color. And remember to record

your ndings.

Another interesting type of sensory

walk is one that focuses on the sounds in

a child’s everyday world. As the children

60 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


walk, ask them to stay alert for di erent

sounds. Let them know that the tools

they’ll need to rely on to make their

observations are their ears and their listening

skills. en discuss the sounds you

encounter. What sounds do the children

like? Which ones do they dislike and why?

Which ones are natural or organic and

which ones are man-made? What do the

sounds tell you about the people, animals,

and activities of the neighborhood? Neighborhoods

o en have changing patterns of

sounds as the day progresses. What di erences

you can detect between “morning

sounds” and “a ernoon sounds” as you

walk around? What words can be used to

describe speci c sounds? Again, ask them

to keep track of their “sound observations”

with drawings, scribbles, photos, audio

recordings, or dictation. Small portable

recording devices are wonderful for keeping

track of the children’s observations

and they also make it possible to review

the sound observations when you return

to the classroom. For a more challenging

sound walk, have some of the children take

turns walking around blindfolded (with

careful supervision and in an area that is

far from cars and other hazards, of course).

Are your listening skills sharper when the

“distractions” of the neighborhood sights

are removed?

Another type of sensory walk that can

be enhanced by blindfolding is one that focuses

on smell. What odors do the children

detect? Which ones do they nd pleasing?

What comments do they make when passing

a bakery, for instance? Encourage them

to describe the odors — and don’t be satis-

ed with vague descriptions like “it smell’s

good” or “it smell’s bad.” By encouraging

more speci c descriptions, you’ll help the

children expand their descriptive vocabulary.

You can even challenge them to draw

pictures that illustrate the odors!

Still another sensory walk might focus

on textures. Observing the textures of pavements,

walls, tree trunks, and owers is an

excellent way of helping children sharpen

their “touch observations” as well as their

descriptive language skills. Data collection

during this walk can include rubbings.

Rubbings are simple to make. All the child

needs to do is place a sheet of paper over

an object (a leaf, for example) and drag the

length of a crayon over the item. For some

objects, you might need the children to

work in teams of two: one to hold the paper

and the other to do the rubbing. Display the

rubbings or share them with families.

A critter safari

Critters (or small animals of one kind or

another, such as worms, beetles, pill bugs,

butter ies, or snails) can be found on

almost any neighborhood walk. Of course,

grassy areas and places littered with leaves

or other plant debris are o en the best

hunting grounds. Look for di erent kinds

of critters in weeds, dirt, trees, cracks in the

sidewalk, under rocks, and even near trash

cans. Invite the children to talk about how

the critters look, smell, move, and feel. To

help enhance their observations, give them

hand-held magni ers. If your center has

some bug containers or “bug houses,” be

sure to bring them on your critter walk. Of

course, use good judgment when touching

small insects or animals. Here are a few

questions you can ask to encourage the

children’s explorations: What can you tell

me about this critter? Where is its head?

Does it appear to have eyes? How many legs

does it have? Tell me about how it moves

from place to place. What color is it? How

well does its color blend in with the place in

which you found it? If you were that critter,

how would you try to blend in with your


Science for

Young Explorers

Nature bracelets

Nature bracelets provide young nature

explorers with an enjoyable way of keeping

track of the interesting things they nd

and collect. All you need to do is to place a

strip of wide masking tape, sticky side out,

around the child’s wrist and you’re on your

way. As the children nd interesting things

on the walk — ower petals, leaves, seeds,

pebbles, twigs, and so forth — they can

attach the items to their bracelet and let the

collection grow as they walk and explore.

Bring the tape along with you in case you

have an eager scientist who wants to amass

a large collection.

Along the way, ask a variety of questions

to prompt more careful exploration

and collection. Can you nd something that

is bigger? Longer? Shorter? A di erent color?

So er? When you’re back in the classroom,

have show-and-tell conversations about the

children’s bracelets. Encourage children

to bring home their bracelets and to ask

their families to take them on nature walks

around their homes to see what they nd.

Adopting a tree

Choose a tree near the school that changes

during the year — one that loses its leaves

(that is, a deciduous tree) is best. Invite the

children to “adopt” the tree and let them

know that the class will visit and carefully

observe it from time to time. On your rst

visit, encourage the children to look carefully

at the trunk, leaves, and any exposed

roots, and have them record their observations

in simple drawings. If you have a

camera available, take pictures of these

structures and keep (and date) the resulting

photographs for use in later comparisons.

You can also collect and preserved some of

the leaves. Rubbings can be made to record


Science for

Young Explorers

the texture of the tree bark. Use a tape measure

(or even a length of string) to record

the circumference of the trunk of the tree.

Can the children nd any seeds, owers, or

fruit present? Look for any signs of insect

or other animal life on or around the tree.

Be sure to record all of the ndings.

Visit the same tree on several other

occasions as the school year progresses,

and repeat these data collection processes,

again recording the dates. ese pieces of

information can be displayed alongside

each other on a bulletin board to make it

easier for children to make comparisons.

Some of the changes will be more readily

observed than others (for example, changes

in leaf color). A er each observation, ask

such questions such as What, if anything,

looks di erent? Is it taller? Wider? More

bushy? A di erent color? How do the leaves/

owers/seeds smell?

While children’s ability to detect more

subtle di erences may be hampered by

their limited measuring skills, work from

the information they have been able to

gather to help them to begin to comprehend

the kinds of changes that trees and

other organisms undergo during their life

cycles. One way to reinforce their understanding

of these changes is to invite them

to place the tree photographs and drawings

in chronological order. All of this is

intended to help children begin to get a

sense of time and of some of the changes

that occur in nature.

Other curriculum connections

To art:

• Use the items that the children collected

on their nature bracelets (described

above) to create individual or group

nature collages.

• Create a display (possibly with photographs)

that depicts the square, circular,

or triangular shapes or interesting

textures the children observed while on

their shape or texture walks.

• Preserve leaves collected at di erent

times of the year by pressing them between

two sheets of wax paper and sealing

the sheets with a warm (not hot) iron.

Or, if you have access to a laminating

machine, use it instead to preserve the

leaves. Have the children create a “leaves

of nature” collage from leaves of di erent

colors, sizes, shapes, and textures.

To math:

• Relate the shapes walk activity to

any math work in which children are

expected to learn and use basic geometric

shapes such as circles, squares, or


• While engaging in one of your neighborhood

walks, get the children involved

in counting things and recording their

data for later use. For example, they

might keep track of the color of automobiles

parked on the streets. Later, they

could create bar graphs displaying this

information. Small cut-outs of autos in

the colors observed, lined up along vertical

lines will produce a very attractive

bar graph that can help tell the story of

the autos seen on the walk. You might

instead choose to count trees, birds,

dandelions, trash cans, houses of given

colors — any will work!

• Mount the string used to measure the

circumference of a tree your children

have adopted on a bulletin board and

invite the children to count how many

“units of measure” long the string is.

e units used might be anything from

the width of someone’s hand to strips of

paper (in actual units of measure, such

as feet).

To social studies:

• Create a map of your walking route. Help

the children to develop some sort of visual

depiction of the path that was taken.

ey might start by making visuals of

each individual segment of the walk

and then work together to assemble the

segments on a large classroom bulletin

board. When the display is completed,

invite the children to try to place drawings

of some of the major landmarks of

the route on the display.

To writing:

• Invite the children to write one or more

stories about the nature walks they went

on. ey may of course have to tell their

story via drawings or through words that

you will write for them.

• e adopt-a-tree activity o ers many opportunities

for story-writing. In addition

to just telling about the changes the tree

undergoes from season to season, ask the

children to imagine that they are the tree

and to create a story about what it feels

like to be that tree as the changes they

witnessed take place.

To reading:

Here are some children’s books that are

related to these activities:

• A Tree is Nice, by Janice May Udry

(HarperCollins, 1984).

• Circles, Triangles, and Squares, by Tana

Hoban (Simon & Schuster, 1974).

• Color Dance, by Ann Jonas (Greenwillow,


• Color Zoo, by Lois Ehlert (Lippincott,


• Growing Colors, by Bruce McMillan

(Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1988).

• My Very First Book of Colors, by Eric

Carle (Crowell, 1974).

• Red is Best, by Kathy Stinson (Fire y,


• Shapes, Shapes, Shapes, by Tana Hoban

(Greenwillow, 1986)

• e Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree, by

Gail Gibbons (Harcourt Children’s

Books, 1984).

62 CHILDREN AND FAMILIES Back-to-School 2008


• When Dad Cuts Down the Chestnut Tree,

by Pam Ayres (Walker Books, 1988).

Involving families

• Ask children to nd objects in and

around their house that match the colors

or shapes they like the best. Encourage

them to tell you why they seem to like a

speci c color or shape.

• Ask families to look through a magazine

that has many pictures with their child to

nd examples of shapes such as squares,

triangles, and circles. What can they nd

in and around their home that also resembles

these shapes? Together, families

can draw pictures with the shapes you

have found and identi ed.

• Be sure to tell the families about the nature

walks and encourage them to go on

Event Highlight

Our Future:

Children in a Global Village

National Black Child Development Institute’s

38th Annual Conference

October 25-28, 2008

Atlanta, Georgia

This event is for practitioners,

parents, researchers, administrators,

and policy specialists who

want to learn how to nurture the

natural curiosity, excitement, and

genius in children? Here are just a

few examples of the session topics

at this event:

• Social-emotional development

of infants, toddlers, and


• Empowering parents

• Strengthening families

• Working with fathers

• Working with culturally diverse

infants, toddlers, and families

their own nature walks with their children.

ese walks might even turn into a

cherished a er-dinner routine. Families

can hunt for di erent plants, owers,

or colors to test their observation skills.

Encourage parents to ask questions and

share information they know with their

children during these walks.

I hope you and the children with

whom you share your days will truly come

to love and enjoy the nature in your very

own neighborhood. Perhaps one day each

one of us will get the opportunity to visit

Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, but in the

meantime, let’s have fun creating our own

science and nature activities right in our


• Building profi ciency

in reading and writing

• Teaching, parenting and mentoring

successful Black males

• Using assessments to

improve instruction

• Reducing childhood


For program and registration information,

visit or call (800) 556-2234.

Science for

Young Explorers

Your non-profit club,

team, church or school works

directly with the manufacturer

to make great profits.

Your customers receive a

tremendous value on kitchen

knives, utensils and gift sets

while supporting your cause.

William C. Ritz is a 50-year veteran of science teaching

and science-teacher education who has devoted

his recent years to bringing “sense of wonder” science

to young children, their parents, and their teachers.

Now professor emeritus of science education at California

State University, Long Beach, he began his

career teaching junior high science in western New

York and then science and environmental education

courses at Syracuse University. Ritz earned his

bachelor’s degree in chemistry and geology, master’s

degree in secondary sciences, and doctorate in

science education from the University at Bu alo in

New York. His book, A Head Start on Science: Encouraging

a Sense of Wonder, is available through

the National Science Teachers Association Web site

at or through most major booksellers.

This article was adapted in part and

expanded from activities in A Head Start

on Science, written by William Ritz.

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Poetry All Around

by Melissa Stinnett

I remember playing with my brother

and sister when I was a little girl as

we learned from our grandmother to

recite poetry and sing songs. I loved

the feeling of the rhythmic words and

sounds we created. My grandmother

had a song for every occasion. In the

morning, for example, she sang:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

You make me happy when skies are gray

You’ll never know dear,

how much I love you,

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

My particular favorite was making up

rhymes about our wrinkled toes as we took

a bath.

Oh, my toes are getting wrinkled,

And I don’t know what to do.

My toes are getting wrinkled,

And I don’t know what to do.

Oh, my toes are getting wrinkled,

And I don’t know what to do.

I think I’ll just say “Ah, chew!”

Playful poetry and songs, together

with the fun experiences in our lives, make

a strong literacy impression that can have a

lasting a ect. Poetry is an extraordinary vehicle

for teaching young children both about

how language works as well as interesting

information about the world in general.

Using poetry in the classroom reading

program allows children to use their natural

love of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition to

propel them forward toward reading. Poetry

is especially well-suited to be read aloud.

And, as research has shown, listening to

stories as they are read aloud helps children

develop phonemic awareness.




Now let’s take a look at ways you can

incorporate more poetry into your regular

routine in the classroom or at home.

Poetry box

Find a big box in which you can store enlarged

sheets of poetry. Your objective will

be to add a weekly poem to the box. You

should label the box, have the children help

you decorate it, and keep it in the reading

area. When you choose a poem for the

week, write it on a large sheet of paper, cut

it into an appropriate shape (for instance,

in the shape of a cat for a poem about cats),

include any other illustrations that would

help convey the meaning of the poem to

the children, and then laminate it. You’ll

soon nd that these poems will become

familiar reading for the children as they

return to the poetry box again and again.

Poem of the week

Select a poem-of-the-week, which can be

used for di erent purposes each day. Here

are some ideas for how you could use one

poem for various activities throughout the


Day 1: Introduce the poem by discussing

the title and the author. Based on the

title and corresponding illustrations, ask

the children to guess what the poem might

be about. en read the poem aloud; be

sure to be animated and expressive while

you read. Discuss the message or main

subject of the poem. During the discussion,

you might need to prompt the children to

think critically about the poem by asking

questions. Here is one of my favorite poems

by Robert Lewis Stevenson that you might

consider using.

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night

And dress by yellow candle-light.

In summer quite the other way,

I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see

e birds still hopping on the tree,

Or hear the grown-up people’s feet

Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,

When all the sky is clear and blue,

And I should like so much to play,

To have to go to bed by day?

Ask the children, Have you all had to

go to bed when the sun is still shining in

the summer time? How did you feel about

that? is may lead to a discussion about

the time change that occurs between summer

and winter each year.

Day 2: Reread the same poem. For this

reading, however, encourage the children

to join in wherever they feel comfortable.

Talk about any vocabulary words that may

need clari cation. Encourage your students

to think of other words or phrases that

could be substituted. en read the poem

again and encourage the children to move

in some way, perhaps swaying or clapping.

Also try reciting the poem as a rap

or chant, emphasizing the ending words

(night, light, way, day, etc.).

Day 3: Reread the poem and then ask

the children to create a drawing or collage

to go with the poem. If appropriate, you

might also create stick puppets, so the children

can act out the poem.

Day 4: Reread the poem. Point out


some of the print concepts and conventions,

such as the use of periods or commas,

the le -to-right direction of the words, and

so forth. Encourage the students to read the

poem together, paying close attention to the

print conventions and visual information

that a ect the way the poem is read. At this

point, you can stop before the last word

in a line and ask the children if they can

remember the missing word.

Day 5: As you read the poem today,

help the children develop phonemic awareness

by clapping out syllables (can-dlelight).

Give each child a small binder to

keep all of the poems in. Also include each

child’s illustrations or artwork with the

poems. Have the children take the poem

binder home at the end of each week to

share with their family. Bringing the weekly

poem home will help promote a literacy

connection between home and school. By

the end of the year, the children will end

up with a binder full of beloved poetry for

familiar reading!


Songs can also be part of your daily shared

reading time on the carpet. As a daily

routine, sing three or four songs. For

example, in her book Joyful Learning in

Kindergarten, Bobbi Fisher’s describes using

the song, Singing in the Rain as a way of

getting children together on the carpet.

I’m singing in the Rain,

Just singing in the rain.

What a glorious feeling,

I’m hap-hap-happy again.

umbs up!

Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh,

Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh,

Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh

Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh, sh.

Elbows out!

Knees bent!

Tongue out!

Poetry for your Head Start classroom

A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

(Harper & Row Publishers, 1981).

All the Colors of the Race, by Arnold

Ado (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1982).

Balloons and Other Poems, by Deborah

Chandra (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1990).

Beneath a Blue Umbrella, by Jack Prelusky

(HarperCollins Publishers, 1990).

Eats, by Arnold Ado (Lothrop, Lee &

Shepard, 1979).

Eric Carle’s Dragons Dragons: And Other

Creatures that Never Were, compiled by

Laura Whipple (Penguin Young Readers

Group, 1991).

For Laughing Out Loud, by Jack Prelutsky

(Random House Children’s Books, 1991).

Free to be You and Me, Vol. 5, by Marlo

Thomas (Running Press Book Publishers,


If I Were in Charge of the World and

Other Worries, by Judith Viorst (Simon

& Schuster Children’s Publishing, 1981).

The Llama Who had No Pajama, by Mary

Ann Hoberman (Harcourt Children’s

Boooks, 2006).

Children can stand and move about

while performing the di erent actions in

the song, putting up their thumbs, li ing

up their elbows, bending their knees, and

sticking out their tongues. en you can…

• Work with onsets, which are the initial

consonant or consonant cluster found

at the beginning of a word or a syllable

(for example, the /st/ in stomping). Ask

children if they hear a certain sound

repeated throughout the poem.

• Work with rimes, or the vowel and

consonant cluster at the end of a word

(for example, /amp/ in lamp). Ask the

children to point out the words that

Moon, Have You Met My Mother? By Karla

Kuskin (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003).

More Poetry for Holidays, selected by

Nancy Larrick (Scholastic, 1973).

The New Kid on the Block, by Jack Prelusky

(HarperCollins Publishers, 1984).

Poems of A. Nonny Mouse, selected by

Jack Prelutsky (Knopf, 1989).

The Real Mother Goose, by Blanche Fisher

Wright (Scholastic, 1994).

Sing a Song of Popcorn: Every Child’s Book

of Poems, by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

(Scholastic, 1998).

Sing to the Sun, by Ashley Bryan (Harper-

Collins, 1992)

Sky Scrape, City Scape: Poems of City Life,

by Jane Yolen (Boyds Mills Press, 1996)

Tickle a Pickle, by Ann Warren Turner

(Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986).

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Poems, by

Tomie dePaola (Putnam Juvenile, 1988).

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

(Harper & Row Publishers, 1974).

rhyme, taking a close look at the printed

words. Also ask the children to help you

think of other rhyming words.

• Extend vocabulary by introducing

synonyms that may not be as familiar to

the children and encouraging them to

suggest other words that could be used as

substitutions throughout the poem.

Listening to poetry

Find favorite poems and read them aloud

to the children. Talk about the reasons you

like the poems, their rhythm, the rhyming,

and so forth. Shel Silverstein’s poems are

always a big hit with children because of



their catchy rhymes and rhythms.

Here’s a quick example:

Bear in ere

ere’s a Polar Bear

In our Frigidaire —

He likes it ‘cause it’s cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the sh

And his big hairy paws

In the buttery dish,

He’s nibbling the noodles,

He’s munching the rice,

He’s slurping the soda,

He’s licking the ice.

And he lets out a roar

If you open the door.

And it gives me a scare

To know he’s in there —

at Polary Bear

In our Fridgitydaire.

ere are plenty of wonderful poems

and nursery rhymes to choose from,

including Mother Goose nursery rhymes,

Jack Prelusky’s For Laughing Out Loud:

Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone, and

Deborah Chandra’s Balloons and Other

Poems. Ask the children the following

questions: Listen to the sounds carefully.

What sounds do you like? What pictures

come to mind when you hear the poem? How

does the poem make you feel? en gather

everyone up to dance to and pantomime a

familiar poem as you recite it together.

Writing with poetry

Teachers can write poetry with their class

as a shared writing activity. Create a poem

by making a list of things for which the

children are thankful. For example…

I am thankful for…

My mom

Because she loves me so much.


Because you learn a lot.

My grandpa

Because he spoils me.


Common poetry terms

Acrostics: a poem or series of lines in

which certain letters, usually the rst in

each line, form a word. The following is

an example using the word summer:

Sunshine pours through

Under my window shade

Morning is here

My mother whispers softly

Eager to rise

Relishing the day

Alliteration: The repetition of the

same or similar sounds at the beginning

of words, for example, Peter Piper

picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Couplet: a pair of lines that works as a

unit, usually rhymes, and forms a complete


Epic: a long, serious poem that tells the

story of heroic gures, for example, The

Iliad and The Odyssey, by Homer.

Free verse: a verse that does not follow

a xed metrical pattern.

Haiku: a type of Japanese poetry that

when written in English contains 17

syllables, ve syllables in the rst line,

seven in the second line, and ve in the

third line.

You can also try writing a sound

poem. Have the children answer several

questions about the sounds they hear.

Here are a few sample questions:

• Can you describe the sound?

• What does the sound make you think of?

• How do you feel when you hear the


Roll, boom

Swish, swish, boom

Swishing wind roars

Shaking the leaves and trees

Glad I am inside my warm house.

Poetry has the wonderful ability to

capture the imagination and attention of

young children with its interesting and

lyrical use of words, rhymes, and imagery.

To a child’s great delight, poetry — whether

Limerick: a humorous poem that is ve

lines long. Usually the rst, second, and last

lines have the same rhyme, while the third

and fourth rhyme.

Meter: the basic rhythmic structure of a


Onomatopoeia: a word or group of words

that imitates the sound it is describing,

such as buzz, meow, and gulp.

Stanza: a unit within a poem that consists

of an arrangement of a certain number of

lines, usually four or more, that often has a

xed length, meter, or rhyme scheme.

Verse: a line of a poem.


A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert

Louis Stevenson (Charles Scribner’s

Sons, 1905).

Joyful Learning in Kindergarten,

Revised edition, by Bobbi Fisher

(Heinemann, 1998).

My toes are getting wrinkled,

M. Cunningham (Unpublished,


You Are My Sunshine (song),

by Davis, J. & Mitchell, C. (1931).

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel

Silverstein, S. (Harper & Row

Publishers, 1974).

it’s about wrinkled toes, a sky that’s clear

and blue, or a polar bear in your Frigidaire

— will make learning about sounds and

language fun!

Melissa Stinnett, Ed.D., is assistant professor of

reading at Western Illinois University in the Department

of Curriculum and Instruction where

she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses.

She serves as governmental relations chair for

Western Illinois Reading Council. Stinnett has a

wealth of experience with early literacy instruction

and Reading Recovery and has taught

kindergarten, rst, and second grades. She is a

frequent presenter at state and national literacy



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NHSA Conferences

e following contact information

applies to all NHSA conferences listed

in this section:

Contact: Lori Burke

National Head Start Association

1651 Prince Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 739-7557 Fax: (703) 739-0878


3rd Annual Director’s Training

St. Louis, Missouri

October 26-30, 2008

Collaborative Governance: The Roles

of Governing Bodies and the Policy


An NHSA Audioconference

November 18, 2008

3-4:30 p.m. ET

Examples of Unwise Gifts: Learn to

Stay Compliant

An NHSA Audioconference

December 2, 2008

3-4:30 p.m. ET

25th Annual Training Conference

Atlanta, Georgia

December 14-18, 2008

January Leadership Institute and

Board Meeting

Arlington, Virginia

January 26-29, 2009

36th Annual Training Conference

Orlando, Florida

April 27-May 2, 2009

National Meetings

NBCDI’s 38th Annual Conference

Atlanta, Georgia

October 25-28, 2008

Contact: Vicki Davis

National Black Child Development


1313 L Street, NW, Suite 110

Washington, DC 20005

(202) 833-2220


2008 NAEYC Annual Conference

Dallas, Texas

November 5-8, 2008

National Association for the Education

of Young Children

1509 16th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20036

(800) 424-2460


23rd National ZERO TO THREE

Training Institute

Los Angeles, California

December 5-7, 2008


2000 M Street, NW, Suite 200

Washington, DC 20036

Region II

Region II Head Start Association

Training Conference

San Juan, Puerto Rico

November 16-19, 2008

Region II Head Start Association

303-309 Washington Street

3rd Floor

Newark, NJ 07102

(973) 643-0300


Region III

Virginia Head Start Association

Annual Conference

Roanoke, Virginia

March 16-18, 2009

Virginia Head Start Association

P.O. Box 876

Lynchburg, VA 24505

(888) 848-3124

PHSA Spring Conference

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

April 2-3, 2009


3700 Vartan Way

Harrisburg, PA 17110

(717) 526-4646

E-mail: stateo

Region IV

Georgia Head Start Association’s

Annual Fall Conference

Dalton, Georgia

November 12-13, 2008

Georgia Head Start Association

P.O. Box 896

Sandersville, GA 31082

Phone: (478) 240-0925

RIVHSA Annual Training Conference

Atlanta, Georgia

February 2-5, 2009

Region IV Head Start Association

P.O. Box 409

Buford, Georgia 30515

(770) 891-2139

Region V

OHSAI Parent Leadership Institute

Columbus, Ohio

November 19-20, 2008

Ohio Head Start Association

144 Westpark Road

Dayton, Ohio 45459

(937) 435-1113 Fax: (937) 435-5411

MHSA Parent Training Conference

Midland, Michigan

November 21, 2008

Michigan Head Start Association

530 W. Ionia, Suite F

Lansing, MI 48933

(517) 374-6472

OHSAI Board Meeting

Columbus, Ohio

December 3, 2008

Ohio Head Start Association

144 Westpark Road

Dayton, Ohio 45459

(937) 435-1113 Fax: (937) 435-5411

OHSAI Social Work Conference

Columbus, Ohio

March 1, 2009

Ohio Head Start Association

144 Westpark Road

Dayton, Ohio 45459

(937) 435-1113 Fax: (937) 435-5411

MHSA Annual Pre-Conference and


Kalamazoo, Michigan

March 11-13, 2009

Michigan Head Start Association

530 W. Ionia, Suite F

Lansing, MI 48933

(517) 374-6472

Region VII

MHSA Board Meeting

Columbia, Missouri

November 13, 2008

Missouri Head Start Association

223 SW Greenwich Drive, Suite 11

Lees Summit, MO 64082

(816) 537-7801


KHSA Annual Conference

Salina, Kansas

November 14, 2008

Kansas Head Start Association

22521 W. 53rd Terrace

Shawnee, KS 66226

(913) 422-1700


Call for Events

Send your calendar items to be listed

in Children and Families.

Contact: Julie Antoniou

1651 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 739-7561 Fax: (703) 739-0878


KHSA Board Meeting

Salina, Kansas

January 7, 2009

Kansas Head Start Association

22521 W. 53rd Terrace

Shawnee, KS 66226

(913) 422-1700


Region VII Leadership Conference

Kansas City, Missouri

May 19-21, 2009

Region VII Head Start Association

122 Teton Ridge Drive

Lake Winnebago, MO 64034

(816) 537-7801


Region IX

General Membership Meeting &

Professional Leadership Training

San Francisco, California

October 13-14, 2008

Contact: Deidad Covarrubias

Region IX Head Start Association

4305 University Avenue, Suite 400

San Diego, CA 92105

(619) 228-2855


AHSA General Board and Committee


Tempe, Arizona

November 20, 2008

Arizona Head Start Association

3910 S. Rural Road, Suite K

Tempe, AZ 85282

(480) 829-8868

CHSA 7th Annual Parent Conference

San Diego, California

January 26-27, 2009

California Head Start Association

1107 9th Street, Suite 301

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 444-7760 Fax: (916) 444-2257


CHSA 11th Annual Education


San Diego, California

January 28-30, 2009

California Head Start Association

1107 9th Street, Suite 301

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 444-7760 Fax: (916) 444-2257


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