Bridging the Word Gap, One Baby at a Time | Administration for Children and Families


By Shantel Meek, PhD, Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Development

Today, the White House released a video message by President Obama stressing the importance of learning and development in the earliest years of life and pledging his partnership in making sure every single child has access to adequate support, equal opportunity, and a fair shot to fulfill his or her dreams.

In particular, he discusses the “30 million word gap”– the early disparities between low- and higher- income children in the number of words they hear– and how high quality early learning experience can help us close that gap. The release of the President’s video is part of a campaign organized in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, to raise awareness of the importance of closing the word gap. Videos by Secretary Hillary Clinton, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Cindy McCain, each focused on the positive influences that the early language environment, characterized by talking, reading, and singing to babies, can have on child outcomes, were also released.

As most of you know, the beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success in school and later in life. During these years, children’s brains are developing rapidly, influenced by the richness of their experiences at home, in early learning settings, and elsewhere in the community. Unfortunately, not all children get the rich early learning experiences that facilitate school readiness and success later in life. In fact, disparities in cognitive, social, behavioral, and health outcomes, between lower-income children and their more affluent peers, are evident as early as 9 months of age and may grow over time Halle et al., 2009.

Source: The Family Room Blog, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Ready to Learn Program Needs Reviewers


Ready to Learn (RTL) is the federal program that has supported many of the educational television shows for young children that you may have seen on PBS (Word World, Super Why!, Peg+Cat, The New Electric Company, etc.). RTL also supports the creation of other educational media such as learning websites, games, and iPad apps. Our goal is to promote school readiness among young children, especially those from low income families, by using the power of mass media to reach into their homes and communities.

Ready to Learn aims to:

  • Create quality educational media via partnerships between professional media producers and early childhood educators
  • Focus on the particular learning needs of low-income children to help promote school readiness or to provide additional enrichment outside the classroom
  • Conduct research on educational effectiveness
  • Conduct community-based outreach programs in settings such as Head Start, libraries, after school programs, and many others.
  • Distribute television programs and digital media products via national broadcasters and other mass media outlets.
  • Create public-private partnerships that will leverage public investments with additional private contributions.

The Ready to Learn program seeks reviewers who can help us in Summer 2014 with an independent panel review of media products and in Fall/Winter 2014-15 with a possible new round of the Ready to Learn grant competition.

Reviewers may include media producers, researchers, PreK or early elementary teachers, researchers, academics, or others. However, all individuals must have knowledge/expertise in some combination of all three of the following areas:

  • Educational media production (including television, games, websites, apps, etc) or the use of educational technology
  • Early Childhood Learning (ages 2-5 or 5-8)
  • Math/Numeracy or Literacy/Reading

Those interested should send their resume (please no more than 5 pages) with up-to-date contact information to

First Read: Free Funding to Support Spanish and Latino Book Purchases

Ends March 16, 2014

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is pleased to share with you the following opportunity from First Book. They are a nonprofit organization that provides new, high-quality books and educational resources for schools and programs serving low-income children.

First Book has an expanded selection of Latino Interest books on their Marketplace, including a new Latino Culture section. Thanks to support from Disney, they are offering a limited-time funding opportunity to help Head Start and other early care and education programs give the gift of reading to the children and families they serve.

Just follow these easy steps:

Select the link to sign up with First Book:

Visit the First Book Marketplace and fill your shopping cart with $200 worth of your choice of books from the Latino Interest category, which includes the Latino Culture and Heritage Collection for Elementary School, a $200 value for 50 titles.

Apply code LCC_ACFLibros at checkout.

This is a first-come, first-served opportunity that ends on Sunday, March 16, 2014. Share this email with colleagues and community partners so they can sign up, too. Thank you for all you do to support and serve kids in need in your community!

¡Feliz lectura! Happy Reading!

Source: Office of Head Start

Supporting Literacy in Early Care and Education Settings


“Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn” (Read Aloud 15 MINUTES, 2014). It’s never too early to start! Reading to a child and exposing him/her to books should start during infancy, a time when brain development is rapid.

Early Literacy Facts

  • From birth to age 3 are critical years in the development of language skills.
  • More than 1 in 3 children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning.
  • Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to help a child prepare for reading and learning.
  • The number of words a child knows upon entering kindergarten is a key predictor of his or her success.
  • Reading to yourself and/or to a child demonstrates that reading is important, pleasurable, and valued.
  • Reading aloud builds literacy skills: vocabulary, phonics, familiarity with the printed word, storytelling, and comprehension.
  • More than 15% of young children (3.1 million) are read to by family members fewer than three times a week.
  • Only 48% of young children in the U.S. are read to each day.

Source: National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education

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Books for Children Grant Application Guidelines: The Libri Foundation

The Libri Foundation is a nationwide non-profit organization which donates new, quality, hardcover children’s books to small, rural public libraries in the United States through its BOOKS FOR CHILDREN program. Only libraries within the 50 states are eligible to apply. The Libri Foundation does not offer grants to libraries outside of the United States.

Libraries are qualified on an individual basis. In general, county libraries should serve a population under 16,000 and town libraries should serve a population under 10,000 (usually under 5,000). Libraries should be in a rural area, have a limited operating budget, and an active children’s department. Please note: Rural is usually considered to be at least 30 miles from a city with a population over 40,000.

Applications are accepted from independent libraries as well as libraries which are part of a county, regional, or cooperative library system. A library system may also apply if all the libraries in the system meet these requirements.

Applications are accepted from school libraries only if they also serve as the public library (i.e. it is open to everyone in the community, has some summer hours, and there is no public library in town).

A branch library may apply if the community it is in meets the definition of rural. If the branch library receives its funding from its parent institution, then the parent institution’s total operating budget, not just the branch library’s total operating budget, must meet the budget restrictions. Please note: Town libraries with total operating budgets over $150,000 and county libraries with total operating budgets over $450,000 are rarely given grants. The average total operating budget of a BOOKS FOR CHILDREN grant recipient is less than $40,000.

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN grant recipients that have fulfilled all grant requirements, including the final report, may apply for another grant three years after the receipt of their previous grant. Grant recipients that do not fulfill all the grant requirements, including the final report, are not eligible for another grant.

There are three ways to obtain a grant application from The Libri Foundation:

Read the application instructions and fill out the form online. The form must be printed out, STAPLED, signed, and returned to The Libri Foundation via mail.

Link to an Adobe Acrobat PDF version of the form to print out and complete by hand or using a typewriter.

To receive a paper application in the mail, please email your name and your library’s name and mailing address to The Libri Foundation at You may also request an application packet by mail, telephone, or fax at the address or phone numbers given on the Libri Foundation home page.

Application deadlines for 2014 are: (postmarked by) January 23rd, May 15th, and August 15th. Grants will be awarded January 31st, May 31st, and August 31st. The names of grant recipients will be posted on the Grant Recipients page within a few days after grants are awarded. Acceptance packets are usually mailed 14-18 days after grants are awarded.

If you want your books in time for your summer reading program, please apply for a January grant.

NOTE: DO NOT waste money sending your application by Express Mail, Certified Mail, etc. The application deadline is based on postmark date, not arrival date.


MINNESOTA Libraries: Please contact the Foundation before applying.



via The Libri Foundation.

10 Ways to Promote the Language and Communication Skills of Infants and Toddlers | FPG MTBT


Early language and communication skills are crucial for children’s success in school and beyond. Language and communication skills include the ability to understand others (i.e., receptive language) and express oneself (i.e., expressive language) using words, gestures, or facial expressions. Children who develop strong language and communication skills are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn.1 They also are less likely to have difficulties learning to read and are more likely to have higher levels of achievement in school.2

During the first years of life, children’s brains are developing rapidly and laying the foundation for learning. The interactions that children have with adults influence how children develop and learn.3 As a result, early childhood educators have a prime opportunity to provide children with interactions that can support children’s growth and development, particularly their language and communication skills.

As past research shows, when teachers provide children with higher levels of language stimulation during the first years of life, children have better language skills.4,5 When teachers ask children questions, respond to their vocalizations, and engage in other positive talk, children learn and use more words. A study found that one third of the language interactions between teachers and children were the type that support children’s language development, while the other two-thirds included less complex language such as directions, general praise, and rhetorical questions.6 Promoting more high-quality language interactions between children and adults provides children with the kinds of experiences that can foster their growth in language and communication.

This guide describes 10 practices that early childhood educators can use to support the development of language and communication skills of infants and toddlers. Because research supports the importance of adult-child interactions for infants and toddlers,5 the practices are designed to be done one-on-one or in small groups. Each practices draws upon the types of interactions that research suggests promotes language and communication skills. These interactions include:

  • Responding to children’s vocalizations and speech
  • Engaging in joint attention with children
  • Eliciting conversations with children
  • Talking with children more
  • Using complex grammar and rich vocabulary
  • Providing children with more information about objects, emotions, or events.

These interactions benefit children from a variety of language and cultural backgrounds, including children who are dual language learners. Children who are dual language learners may sometimes feel socially isolated and have difficulty communicating their wants and needs.7 Educators may find the practices presented in this guide useful for helping dual language learners feel more socially connected and communicate better. Educators interested in learning more about supporting dual language learners will find additional information in the resources presented at the end of the guide.

Source: Frank Porter Graham Institute on Child Development, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Mathematizing Children’s Books: The Joy and Wonder of Mathematics in Favorite Stories

Monday, Nov. 25, 2013
1 – 1:45 p.m. EST
Register Online Now!

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL) hosts the Front Porch Series Broadcast Calls on the fourth Monday of each month. These calls are your opportunity to hear from national experts on current research and findings in early childhood.

Join us for Mathematizing Children’s Books: The Joy and Wonder of Mathematics in Favorite Stories. Dr. Gail Joseph will moderate the call and doctors Allison Hintz and Antony Smith will present. Dr. Hintz is an assistant professor and Dr. Smith is an associate professor in the education program at the University of Washington, Bothell. Dr. Hintz’s research and teaching focus on mathematics, specifically studying how to engage children in mathematically productive and socially supportive discussions. Dr. Smith’s teaching and scholarship focus on content-area literacy assessment, instruction, and professional development.

Reading and being read to is a favorite pastime for many children at home, in school, and at the library. While stories and books cultivate a love for reading, they can also nurture a joy in mathematics. We will share how to find the wonder of mathematics in the pages of children’s books and “mathematize” different kinds of texts. Let’s explore how popular children’s books, like the ones right on your shelf, can foster rich mathematical discussion!

Topics for the webinar include:

  • Mathematics in children’s books
  • Fostering rich mathematical discussion

Who Should Listen?

The broadcast call will benefit an array of audience members, including: Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, and American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start program staff, parents, directors, managers, and administrators; T/TA managers; T/TA providers, federal and Regional Office Staff; and State Collaboration Offices.

Participating in the Broadcast Call

The broadcast call will be accessible only via computer. Select this link to register for the broadcast call and to review system requirements for participation:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing additional instructions on how to join the broadcast. Space is limited to 1,000 participants. This presentation will be archived in the Front Porch Series section of the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC)


You may send your questions to or call (toll-free) 1-877-731-0764.

Source: Head Start National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning

Baby E-lert, Sharing Information on the Quality Care of Infants, Toddlers, and their Families


This Baby E-Lert features resources related to language and literacy development and nature-based learning. Share them with your co-workers, families, and other early care professionals.

Source: Early Head Start National Resource Center

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NAEYC Thought Leaders in Early Childhood Webinar Series

October – December, 2013

Gain insight and access to some of the most prominent thought leaders in the early childhood field today. Sponsored by Walden University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Thought Leaders in Early Childhood webinar series explores a wide range of topics, trends, and best practices in the field.

Join us for one or all of the following events:

Dr. Clancy Blair, professor of applied psychology in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, discusses “Promoting the Development of Self-Regulation in Young Children” on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Register Now

Dr. Catherine Snow, a psychologist who has studied language and literacy acquisition in bilingual and monolingual children, will discuss “Facilitating Language Development in Young Children” on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Register Now

Dr. Robert C. Pianta, founding director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) at the University of Virginia and a professor in both the Curry School of Education and in the Department of Psychology, discusses “Measuring Classroom Quality” on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Register Now

Listen to an EduTalk radio interview about the webinar series.

The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University, a National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)–accredited institution, is proud to be a year-round sponsor of NAEYC, the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children.

Walden University is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). This accreditation covers initial teacher preparation programs and advanced educator preparation programs. As a recognized standard of excellence in professional education for the preparation of teachers, administrators, and other preK–12 school professionals, NCATE accreditation ensures that the institution has met rigorous national standards set by the profession and members of the public. However, the accreditation does not include individual education courses offered to preK–12 educators for professional development, relicensure, or other purposes.

Source: National Association for the Education of Young Children and Walden University

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TMW Initiative | Thirty Million Words

A world-famous study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995) found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their 3rd birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. The bottom line: the kids who started out ahead, stayed ahead; the kids who started out behind, stayed behind. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.

We believe those thirty million words are key to closing the achievement gap and giving children the best start in life. That’s why we created the Thirty Million Words™ Initiative. We want to get the words out!

Source: Thirty Million Words

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