October is Head Start Awareness Month, a special time to highlight the crucial role of Head Start and Early Head Start in supporting the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children, ages 0-5, from low-income families.
Pictured here is 3-year-old Omar, who attends our Escalera Head Start program, and his mom, Evelys, during the first of many of the program’s family events. All of our early childhood education programs emphasize parents and other primary caregivers as children’s first and most important teacher, and parent education and involvement are an integral part of them.
Omar recently arrived here from Colombia. He doesn’t speak any English yet. That’s true of many of our students, and that’s why our educators have special training in teaching dual language learners. Classes are bilingual, objects in the classroom are labeled in English as well as in students’ native languages, and literacy is central to routines and activities. Most children’s literacy development grows by leaps and bounds in our Head Start programs. In the 2020-21 school year, the percentage of our Head Start students who met or exceeded widely held expectations for literacy increased from 33.3 percent in the fall to 76 percent in the spring.
Omar already has been enjoying looking at books in Escalera’s learning centers, where children engage in self-directed play and which are stocked with topical reading materials (for example, architecture books in the building center). Omar also loves going to the playground and running around with his classmates. He has a good appetite and tries new foods that he has never tasted before (he loves fruit but is not a fan of oatmeal). His favorite activity is painting, and as you can see, he couldn’t wait to show his mom how skilled he is at the easel!