When the school day begins at just about any urban preschool, the room buzzes with energy and the sounds of young children getting in gear for the day.
Listen closely, and you’ll hear those young voices speaking in more than one language.
With Head Start teachers juggling classrooms where two, three, or more languages are spoken, EDC recognized a need to better serve learners in these settings while supporting programs, teachers, and families.
To address the growing needs of dual language learners, EDC will receive $10.5 million over five years, partnering with Bank Street College of Education to create the new National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Head Start supports families and children’s development, and we support the Head Start community in developing policies and practices that are culturally and linguistically responsive for programs across the country,” says Joanne Knapp-Philo, a nationally recognized early childhood education researcher who joined EDC to direct the new center. “Ensuring that these children go to school ready to learn is one of the most important responsibilities we have.”
“We need to put into practice what research says about supporting children’s language learning,” adds EDC’s Julie Hirschler. “The goal is to support the language development of children who are dual language learners as well as their cultures. They need to learn language—for example, vocabulary and letter sounds—and the other important concepts necessary to be ready to learn in preschool and later in K–12 classrooms.”
Building on this research and EDC’s decades of work with Head Start at the national, regional, state, and local levels, the new center will promote practices that support diverse learners, including techniques for early childhood education teachers who work with children and their families who speak languages other than English in the classroom and other learning environments.
“Head Start teachers have children with many different language and cultural backgrounds in their classrooms,” says Hirschler. “Teachers can’t be expected to speak all languages, but giving them training in how language is acquired can better equip them to support all children and their language learning.”
Originally published on January 25, 2011