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Early Childhood 2019: The Year in Review

From the passing of one of the pioneers in the field of child development to landmark research on the effects of screen time on young children’s brains, it’s been an eventful 12 months on the early childhood front. We invite you to join us for a look back at some of the most important stories of the past 12 months (as well as a tiny peek ahead at 2020).

Remembering Dr. Edward Zigler, father of Head Start

In February, the early childhood field lost one of its most influential members: Dr. Edward Zigler, a founding father of Head Start, a presidential advisor on child and family policy, and a tireless advocate for children. We at Brookes were proud to work with Dr. Zigler on two books, and we joined the field in honoring his life and celebrating his immense and lasting impact on American families. Read Dr. Zigler’s New York Times obituary here.

New position statement from NAEYC

“All children have the right to equitable learning opportunities [and] all early childhood educators have a professional obligation to advance equity.” In September, NAEYC released their newest position statement, Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education. Endorsed by more than 100 organizations, this important new statement aims to help “nurture a more diverse and inclusive generation of young children” and includes specific recommendations for early childhood educators, administrators, professional development coordinators, and public policy makers. Read the full position statement here.

Second-generation effects of the Perry Preschool Project

Dr. James Heckman of the University of Chicago presented new research about the highly influential Perry Preschool project and its enduring effects on participants more than 50 years later. Heckman and his co-author found that the program’s original participants had better life outcomes, and that these benefits also had a positive second-generation impact on their children’s education, health, and employment. Their conclusion: “Early childhood education resulted in stronger families and significantly contributed to upward mobility in the next generation—an indication that early childhood education can be an effective way to break the cycle of poverty.” Read the research summary here.

Results of the Happy Teacher Project

The Happy Teacher Project, a new research study on teachers’ physical and psychological well-being, was funded by the Early Childhood Education Institute and the University of Oklahoma this year. While the majority of the 262 teachers who were surveyed felt committed to their work and planned to stay in their current position, many struggled with significant issues, including work-related ergonomic pain (66%), below-average cardiorespiratory fitness (54%), and feelings of depression (23%). The researchers recommended several steps early education programs should take to protect the well-being of teachers, such as fitness programs, training to improve lifting techniques, and designated breaks for mental stress relief. Learn more here.

Zero to Three’s State of Babies Report

Did you know that 45% of infants and toddlers in the U.S. live in households with income less than twice that of the federal poverty level? That’s just one of the significant numbers included in Zero to Three’s State of Babies 2019 Yearbook, an assessment of the overall health and well-being of babies across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. See how your state stacks up in three vital areas: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. Then download a toolkit that will help you reach out to local and federal policymakers who could make a positive legislative impact on the crucial first three years of a child’s development. Read the overview, download the full yearbook, and take action here.

IDEA Full Funding Act introduced into Congress

Back in March, a bipartisan bill was introduced in both houses of Congress that would belatedly fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), nearly 44 years after the original piece of legislation (then known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was signed into law. The IDEA Full Funding Act was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where further action is pending. If you’d like to help move this important bill forward, contact your representatives and let them know why funding IDEA is important to you. Read more about the IDEA Full Funding Act.

Head Start Backs Legislation to Treat Childhood Trauma

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Schools Committee, at least one in four students have suffered trauma severe enough to affect their performance in school, and decades of research suggest that trauma can have a lasting effect on a child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development. In June, a new piece of legislation on early childhood trauma was introduced in both houses of Congress. The Resilience, Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act would equip Head Start with resources to greatly expand its trauma-sensitive workforce and increase community-based support to children and families who have experienced trauma. If granted the additional funding proposed by the RISE from Trauma Act, Head Start would be well-positioned to lessen the effects of trauma in the communities most affected by it. Learn more about the new bill. Learn more about the new bill.

Too much screen time changes children’s brains

With screen-based media consumption on the rise in most U.S. homes, parents, caregivers and early childhood educators spent a lot of time in 2019 worrying about the effects of increased screen use on young children. Studies released this year indicate that concerns over excessive screen time may be justified, and that allowing children ages 2 to 5 access to screens for more than the AAP’s recommended limit of one hour per day could have significant effects on still-forming brains. Shortened attention spans, developmental delays, and structural changes to the area of the brain that monitors language and self-regulation were some of the possible risks identified by the studies. Read more about these important studies here.

Research for ASQ-4 is underway—and you can help

To establish scoring for the upcoming new edition of the trusted developmental screener, the research team behind ASQ began collecting thousands of completed questionnaires this year for the ASQ-4 normative sample. You can help by encouraging parents to complete an online research version of ASQ, offered for free for a limited time. Completing the free ASQ questionnaire will help parents identify their child’s strengths, uncover new milestones to celebrate, and reveal any areas where their child may need support. And every completed questionnaire will help the research team create a new edition of ASQ that reflects the complexity and diversity of today’s world. Share this link with parents to get them started.

No look back would be complete without a glance ahead, so here are a few early childhood stories we’ll be keeping an eye on as 2020 dawns.

PDG B-5 grant renewal

Is your state among the 46 that earned initial assessment and strategic planning grants in January 2019 through the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program? States should find out by December 31 whether they’ll be awarded one of 23 grant renewals that will allow them to move forward and fund the plans they’ve developed to improve their early childhood education efforts. Learn more.

2020 census—make sure kids are counted!

The upcoming 2020 U.S. Census will be the first one ever with an online response option, which officials hope will account for the estimated 5% of infants, preschoolers, and toddlers who were not included in the 2010 census. Population data is used to help communities plan for critical infrastructure needs and to fund social service initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch program. See what you can do to help ensure every child is counted.