by Judith R. Cruzado-Guerrero
What practices can Early Head Start (EHS) programs implement to support the home languages and cultures of the families and to support the infants and toddlers who are English language learners? The Early Head Start National Resource Center @ ZERO TO THREE (2001) makes the following recommendations. They parallel the Head Start Program Performance Standards which EHS programs are required to implement.
The recommended practices for EHS programs are to:
- Involve parents and families in sharing their language and culture through a range of activities at home and in the program.
- Collaborate with community partners as well as state and local programs that work closely with culturally and linguistically diverse families. Ask for volunteers who share the same culture and language of the children to spend some time in the classroom.
- Communicate with the families in a variety of ways using different language approaches and resources. Provide both written and verbal communication, and whenever possible, translate into the home languages. Keep them informed about the best practices for supporting language development.
- Encourage parents to share music, songs, and stories for children that are from other cultures and in different languages.
- Use visual images (such as books, posters, and photos), furnishings, toys, and foods that reflect the cultural diversity of the families.
- Communicate with children in a variety of ways using their home language. Hire and train qualified bilingual caregivers BUT if the caregiver does not speak the child’s home language, search for resources (songs, toys) that help the infant or toddler feel at home.
- Involve all parents in curriculum development. Ensure that the curriculum is individualized to support the language goal that parents have identified for their children. For example, is the goal to learn the home language first, to learn English first, or to learn both simultaneously?
- Conduct dual-language assessments when necessary to obtain accurate information about the child’s progress. Include ongoing, systematic observations of the children’s behavior and language.
- Respect, value, and promote the home languages and cultures for the ultimate development and learning of the children (NAEYC 1995).
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 1995. Responding to linguistic and cultural diversity: Recommendations for effective early childhood education. Washington, D.C.: Author. Available at www.naeyc.org.
Judith Cruzado-Guerrero is an Assistant Professor, School of Education, Bowie State University, MD.
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