Families

Families are the heart of school readiness.

When families involve their young children in daily learning by talking with them, playing with them, and reading to them from birth, children have

  • Higher literacy skills
  • Better peer interactions
  • Fewer behavior problems
  • Greater motivation and persistence during learning activities

In other words, children whose families involve them in learning at home are more successful in school!

Head Start understands and values the key role families play in children's school readiness. As a parent, grandparent, or other adult family member, there are many ways you can support your child to reach her greatest learning potential. Below are some steps and resources to help you help your child learn:

Steps to School Readiness

  1. Find Out How Children Learn

    What you do with and say to your child makes a big difference, so it is important to know how children learn. These resources talk about how babies, toddlers, and young children learn.

    • Babies begin to learn even before they are born! Find out what your baby learns in each month of his very first year.
    • Each child develops at his own pace, but there are milestones that most children reach. If you know what developmental milestones to look for, you will know what changes and accomplishments to expect as your child grows.
    • When children are healthy and safe, they are able to focus on learning and developing the skills they need to succeed in school. There are many ways that a child’s health affects school readiness [PDF, 78KB].
  2. Help Your Child Learn

    Your child is learning all the time. Simple, everyday activities and routines at home, like mealtime, are perfect chances to help them learn important school readiness skills, including social-emotional skills, language and literacy skills, thinking skills (math), and physical skills. They also help him learn how to learn. These resources provide ideas on things you can do with your child to help him learn.

    • There are many ways you can help your child learn while having fun doing everyday activities at home and in your community.
    • When you read, sing, and talk with your child, you are helping her learn about language and the world around her. Also available in Spanish (español).
    • When your child has a healthy mouth [PDF, 130KB], she's able to learn and grow to her greatest potential.
  3. Partner with Head Start Staff to Measure and Follow Your Child's Progress in Learning

    You know your child best. You know what they can do well, what they're learning to do, and what they can't yet do. It is important for you to share this information with Head Start staff so you can work together to set goals for your child and measure her progress towards those goals. These resources cover how children’s progress is measured in Head Start and how families are involved in the process.

    • Your child’s Head Start program screens children to see if they are reaching milestones according to their age. Developmental screening can also help you find out if your child needs additional help so he develops to his greatest ability.
    • If your child has special needs, you can work with her school to develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individual Education Plan (IEP) that best meets her particular needs. As a partner with the school, you can build the foundation for her education and future success.
    • With your help, your child has the power to succeed in school! There are many ways to help, at home and in partnership with his teachers. Also available in Spanish (español).
  4. Get Involved with Your Child's Head Start Program

    Children whose families are actively involved in their education do better in school. There are many ways Head Start families can be involved. You can share your culture with the children and help teachers and caregivers prepare. You can organize family events, help with center committee meetings, or become a member of Policy Council. These resources provide ideas on how you can be involved in your child’s program.

    • These stories, written by real Head Start family members, include many ideas on how you can become involved in the Head Start program and how it benefits you and your child.
    • The Nurturing the Promise video discusses many of the opportunities available to children and families in Head Start and offers ideas on how families can get involved.
    • This fact sheet has suggestions for how you can get involved in your child’s Head Start or Early Head Start program.

Resources

  • Continue to speak your home language with your child if your first language is not English. There are many benefits for your child learning your family’s home language while learning English or another second language!
  • If you are new to the United States [PDF, 3.4MB], you can help your child by finding support and information about your new country. Available in Spanish (español) [PDF, 3.4MB] and Arabic [PDF, 3.8MB].
  • Your child benefits socially and academically from spending time with their fathers and other male role models.
  • These monthly newsletters offer ideas and resources to staff and families of young children with disabilities.

Stories from the Field

Last Reviewed: June 2014

Last Updated: February 9, 2015