The White House launches a new federal effort from the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education on better supporting the country’s youngest dual language learners (DLLs) in early childhood programs.
The initiative recognizes the cultural and linguistic assets of the population of children, and provides important resources and recommendations to the early childhood field. The departments want to ensure that early education programs are accessible to DLL families and that they appropriately foster the learning and development of this large and growing group of children.
Data indicate that about one in five school-aged children speak a language other than English at home, a figure that has more than doubled in the past few decades. Estimates suggest that this number may be even higher for learners under the age of six; for example, nearly a third of children in Head Start programs are DLLs. Research with young DLLs clearly reflects that children’s bilingual skill development promotes overall language development and should be encouraged.
“These home languages are an asset that should be valued, and research shows that supporting bilingualism from early ages can have wide ranging benefits, from cognitive and social advantages early in life, to long-term employment opportunities and competitiveness in the workplace,” said DoEd Secy. John King. “This is part of DoEd’s ongoing commitment to ensure that dual language learners, including immigrants and refugees, have access to high quality supports.”
The effort includes:
- A New Federal Policy Statement on More Effectively Supporting Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs: The statement includes comprehensive policy recommendations to states and to early childhood programs. It also recommends that Sates and local communities work together to ensure that all early childhood programs are welcoming and linguistically accessible to families of DLLs..
- A New DLL Electronic Toolkit for Programs, Early Educators, Child Care Providers, and Families: Released by HHS’ Office of Head Start, it includes free resources on supporting the learning and development- including dual language development – of DLLs at home, in early learning settings, and in the community. The DLL toolkit will be available at no cost to all early childhood programs, including all Head Start programs, which serve more than 300,000 DLLs every day.
- Too Small to Fail, in partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of Miami- Dade and Monroe County and Univision will launch a new citywide “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” public awareness campaign in Miami, with an emphasis on reaching families of young DLLs. The campaign promotes early brain and language development by encouraging parents to engage in meaningful activities with their young children starting at birth.
- The National Head Start Association will partner with Head Start programs across the nation, business bureaus, and local chambers of commerce, to develop and widely disseminate a toolkit to promote two-generation best practices that support the parents of DLLs in areas such as job training, enrolling in adult education programs, and accessing English language courses. The toolkit will include a review of best practice examples from Head Start programs that are supporting two generation approaches for children who are DLLs and their families, and guidance for how to replicate the best practices.
- First Five California are developing a $16 million DLL Pilot to identify effective culturally and linguistically responsive strategies to better support young children who are DLLs. The pilot will focus on three priority areas while ensuring they are scalable and implementable across California’s multi-lingual early learning settings.
The new initiative is meant to build on the broader agenda to expand access to high quality early education for all children. Since 2013, 38 states and D.C. have increased funding in their public preschool programs, investing an additional $1.5 billion, and totaling almost $7 billion in investments this year alone.