Home Visiting Programs Help Latino Toddlers

Sometimes even preschool is too late to effectively intervene and boost the achievement levels of low-income Latino children.

But home visiting programs bring school into the home, and help parents become their child’s first teacher. A recent report by the Latino Policy Forum, “Primeros Pasos,” shows how such programs are making a positive difference in Illinois.

The programs are characterized by their work to improve parenting practices as well as parents’ awareness of their child’s development. They also operate as an early alert system of sorts to identify any developmental or health challenges. They also may prevent child abuse and set children on track toward greater success in school.

“Home visiting programs are generally targeted toward those families who are most at risk for adverse outcomes, like teen parents. And home visiting can begin prenatally to coach and equip young parents in how to support their child’s health development,” the report’s author, Jacob Vigil, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

The study also suggests that strong home visiting programs are often those that receive state funding support.

The Early Head Start home visiting program works with children under the age of three. Yuri Gutierrez has two young children in the program and told WTTW that one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of reading to them.

The Latino Policy Forum makes a number of other recommendations on how to improve early childhood learning. They include increasing the number of bilingual early learning educators and providing more training opportunities to such individuals.

They also recommend improving awareness among Latino parents about the importance of early learning and parent involvement. In addition, they encourage the collection of data on infants and toddlers and the service providers that work with such children.

Even the report focuses on Illinois, it is worth a read and could easily be applied to the rest of the nation.

Related Links:

“Early Education in the Latino Community,” Chicago Tonight, WTTW.

“Primeros Pasos: Strengthening Programs that Support Illinois Infants and Toddlers,” Latino Policy Forum.

Home Visiting Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Report Measures Trends in Child Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual Kids Count report evaluating child well-being in the United States.

The report delves into areas such as economic security, education, health, and family and community. The online resources are comprehensive — offering the national and state-by-state perspective, in addition to data broken out by race and ethnicity.

According to the report, small gains have been made in the areas of education and health. However, income inequality and high unemployment are hurting well-being.

The report stresses that high-quality preschool programs can improve academic outcomes for children. However, only about 46 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are in preschool.

The child poverty rate was about 23 percent in 2011, with the youngest children being the poorest. The report defined the poverty line as $22,811 for two adults and two children.

According to the report, child well-being can be improved with more programs that teach parents how to be their child’s first teacher and offering more high-quality preschool programs.

The report reported further data, and here are some interesting statistics about Latino children:

– ABout 63 percent of Hispanic three- and four-year-old children were not attending preschool — more than any other group.

– About 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 2011.

– About 39 percent of Hispanic children had parents lacking secure employment in 2011.

– About 11 percent of Hispanic teens were not in school or not working in 2011.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic high school students did not graduate on time in 2009-10.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children were in single-parent homes in 2011.

The states were also ranked based on well-being, with New Mexico ranked last overall. Other states with significant Latino populations included Arizona (47), California (41), Florida (38), Illinois (23), New York (29) and Texas (42).

Related Links:

2013 Kids Count Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Challenge for Latino Children in Illinois

The Chicago Public Schools have faced numerous difficulties in the past year: school closures, neighborhood violence and persistently high dropout rates. Latino children make up about 44 percent of the district’s enrollment.

On the Huffington Post Latino Voices blog, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente writes about the conditions in Chicago and Illinois, noting last year’s struggles.

“The eyes of the nation were fixed on our corner of Illinois — not just to follow the controversy, but also because as one of the country’s global, diverse cities, Chicago is [a] litmus test of educational realities across the country,” she writes.

Puente writes that improving outcomes for Latino children depends on increasing access to quality preschool programs. Additionally, as Illinois phases in required bilingual education for English Language Learners in preschool, more training is needed for teachers. Lastly, Latino students need access to quality teachers and more Latino teachers.

“Understanding the issues is step one,” Puente writes. “But action — in the form of investments in increased access to quality early care and education in Latino neighborhoods, resources for teachers to pursue linguistic credentials, and strong teacher preparation programs that encourage diverse talent in the profession — is critical, in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country.”

Read more here.

Related Links:

– “Chicago’s Next Education Crisis Isn’t Limited to Chicago — Here’s Why,” The Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– Latino Policy Forum.

Librarians Create Bilingual Reading List

In the Dallas school district, a group of librarians meets every year to create a special reading list for Hispanic children. The librarians strive to identify 20 of the best bilingual books for Spanish-speaking elementary school children.

The librarians call themselves the luminarias (lights used to guide the way), because of how they view their role as shepherding young readers. In Dallas ISD, this is especially critical since almost 70 percent of the district’s students are Latino, and nearly 40 percent are classified limited English proficient.

Reporter Stella M. Chavez of KERA radio reported on the group, and observed as children flipped through some of the books on the list at a local library. There is more than just an educational value to the list.

“They also love to see characters that are Hispanic and that’s starting to be more and more predominant but it’s far from where it needs to be,” Dallas elementary school librarian Maryam Mathis told KERA.

The books include El Fandango de Lola, about a Spanish girl who learns how to dance the fandango. The book La Hermosa Señora  is about the legend of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And Cuento de Noche is a bedtime story.

Have you seen efforts to compile similar reading lists?  

Related Links:

– “Librarians In Search of Books for Latino Kids,” KERA (NPR). 

– Library Programs, Dallas ISD (Scroll down for Luminarias Reading List)

– “For Young Latino Readers, an Image is Missing,” The New York Times.

Latinas 4 Latino Literature.

Report: Latino Children Need More “Active Spaces”

Many Latino children enjoy limited opportunities to engage in physical activity and exercise in their communities, according to a new study. That’s because they may not have nearby access to the proper facilities and safe “active spaces.”

This can negatively impact the ability of children to maintain a health weight, and could promote obesity.

The research is part of several recent and upcoming studies compiled by Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children. The report was mostly based on surveys.

Such spaces include recreation centers, school gyms, athletic fields and playgrounds. According to the report, efforts to improve access often become stalled by concerns about costs related to staffing, maintenance and liability.

The study suggests shared-use agreements as one solution. These agreements can often take place between schools and cities. Safety also can be a key concern. For this reason the study suggests street improvements such as fixing sidewalks and adding bike lanes.

Often, such concerns can block schools from making their facilities open to the public outside of school hours — and in particular, liability is a top barrier.

According to the report, the obesity rate among Latino children is about 38 percent, compared with 29 percent for white children. Additionally a Census survey found Latino children were less likely than white children to say they had safe places to play in their neighborhoods.

Indeed, safety can be key. The study references another survey of residents of unincorporated colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. The children noted that deterrents from outdoor activities included trash-filled streets, bad odors, playgrounds in poor conditions, stray dogs and gangs. Streets also lacked sidewalks and crosswalks.

The study noted that when asked, children requested more parks, recreation areas, basketball courts, street lights, and police.

The report lists several examples of successful shared use agreements in California. They include the Healthy High Desert program in Adelanto, California. The school district and city government partnered to create a park on an empty lot next to an elementary school.

Related Links:

– “Research: Latino Kids Lack Access to Safe ‘Active Spaces,'” Salud Today Blog. 

– “Using Shared Use Agreements and Street-Scale Improvements to Support Physical Activity among Latino Youths.”

– “Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children.

Kids Count Report Measures Hispanic Children’s Well-Being

Latino children still have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any racial or ethnic group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation annual 2013 Kids Count report has found.

Between 2009 and 2011, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool, compared with 50 percent of white children.

The annual report measures the well-being of children across the nation, and provides a wealth of additional information on key indicators. It provides state-by-state information. Between 2005 and 2011, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The Associated Press reported that while education and health indicators are improving, economic indicators worsened.

“We hope as we go forward we’ll see continued improvement,” Patrick McCarthy, president of the Casey Foundation, told The Washington Post. “But we’re concerned about the longterm impact of the recession. Research suggests that children who spend extended periods of time in poverty are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant and are less likely to [find permanent] work. Over the long term, they have a tough time transitioning to adulthood.”

Some additional information provides further context on the population:

– In 2011, about 34 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared with 14 percent of white children. The national average was 23 percent.

– Hispanic children were by far the most likely of any racial or ethnic group to have a head of household who lacked a high school diploma, as of 2011. About 37 percent of Hispanic children fell under this category, compared with 6 percent of white children.

– About 29 percent of Hispanic students did not graduate on time in 2009-10, compared with 17 percent of white students.

– In 2011, about 13 percent of Hispanic children did not have health insurance, compared with 5 percent of white children.

– About 42 percent of Hispanic children lived in single-parent homes in 2011, compared with 25 percent of white children.

Additionally, some states with significant Hispanic populations struggled. For the second year in a row, Nevada was ranked dead last in education. Additionally, New Mexico ranked worst in the nation in child well-being, after it was found that about 30 percent of children there are living in poverty.

Related Links:

KIDS COUNT 2013 Report

– “Report: Economic well-being of US children slips,” Associated Press. 

– “Children living in poverty longer, putting their futures at risk,” The Washington Post.

Study Suggests Junk Food Ads Contribute to Latino Youth Obesity

Latino children view about 12 food and beverage television ads a day, says a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that such viewership could be related to high obesity rates among the group.

The researchers used Nielsen data on Spanish-language and English-language television viewership to conduct their study, which analyzed the viewing habits of children ages two to 17. In 2010, Hispanic preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) watched 4,218 ads, children (ages 6 to 11) watched 4,373, and adolescents (12 to 17) watched 4,542 ads.

“Given higher rates of obesity and overweight for Hispanic youth, it is important to understand the amount and types of food advertising they view,” said a team led by Frances Fleming-Milici of Yale University, according to a JAMA news release.

Hispanic children tend to watch fewer food ads than other children daily and Spanish-language television features fewer ads. However, about half of the food ads shown on Spanish television were for products such as fast food, candy and cereals.

In fact, Hispanic children and adolescents watched 14 percent and 24 percent fewer food ads than non-Hispanic youth.

But Hispanic preschoolers ages two to five were more likely to watch Spanish-language television, so they were exposed at an early age to a disproportionate number of ads for unhealthy foods. They also were exposed to the most Spanish-language food ads. They watched 1,038 Spanish food ads in 2010.

It’s important to point out that Hispanic children are underrepresented in pre-K programs, as compared with black and white children. Unfortunately, they may be watching more television in place of attending school.

“Although Hispanic children and adolescents see somewhat fewer of these ads, the higher obesity rates among Hispanic youth, the greater exposure by Hispanic preschoolers, and the potential enhanced effects of targeted advertising on Hispanic youth suggest that this exposure may pose additional risks for Hispanic youth,” the JAMA Pediatrics article said.

Related Links:

– “Junk Food Ads May Help Drive Obesity in Hispanic kids, Study Suggests,” US News and World Report/Health Day.

– “Study suggests link between food commercials and obesity in Latino youth,” 89.3 KPCC.

– “Amount of Hispanic Youth Exposure to Food and Beverage Advertising on Spanish- and English- Language Television,” JAMA Pediatrics.

Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos

A new ad campaign from the group Autism Speaks is reaching out to Latino and African-American parents to generate greater awareness about autism and encourage earlier identification.

The “Maybe”  PSA campaign includes TV and print ads in both English and Spanish. The ads outline key warning signs and behaviors a child with autism may exhibit, such as a preoccupation with objects and avoiding eye contact.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified as autistic. The CDC estimated that there were about 7.9 diagnosed cases of autism per 1,000 Latino children, an increase of 110% over 2002. Despite that increase, prevalence is much higher among white (12.0) and black (10.2) children. The report noted that the wide variation between groups could be attributed to awareness levels in the communities.

The average age of diagnosis is four to five years. But the average age of diagnosis is higher among Latino, black and low-income children.

“Earlier diagnosis [is] so important because if we can get a child by 2 years old, in most cases, with help that child can go to regular kindergarten,” Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, told NBC Latino. “The window between 2-5 years old is the most important time to deal with treatment.”

Related Links:

– “Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents,” The New York Times.

– “Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Autism Speaks launches new campaign to reach Latino, black parents,” NBC Latino.

– “Prevalence of Austin Spectrum DIsorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Children,” Pediatrics.

– Autism Speaks

Researchers Examine Dual Language Early Ed Learners

Researchers from the Center for Early Care and Early Education Research – Dual Language Learners at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently reviewed many studies to drawn conclusions about English language learners. The center’s research is funded in part by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Researchers examined children ages zero to five who are learning two languages.

They found that dual language learners are not hurt by being exposed to two languages as they develop. However, their ability in each of the languages will vary based on when they were exposed to each and how often they are able to use the language.

Additionally, the dual language learners are behind other children in phonological skills as infants, but progress during preschool, and then catch up to other children.

Researchers also noted that while the bilingual childrens’ vocabulary in each separate language was smaller than that of children who spoke only one language, when the vocabularies of both languages are combined they become equal. Evidence also suggested that the dual language children began preschool with fewer literacy skills in English than the monolingual children.

Further research has shown that children who learn literacy at home in their first language are more successful in acquiring a second language. They also concluded that successful children are taught by teachers proficient in the child’s first language.

“Problems with DLLs’ development arise when they are not provided sufficient language learning opportunities and support for both languages,” the study says. “When [early childhood education] classrooms place emphasis solely on English development, DLLs’ development in their first language can decline and their abilities in English continue to fall behind those of their English speaking grade level peers.”

Researchers also concluded that bilingual children have many strengths as well, including an ability to focus more while working on nonverbal tasks such as math problems. They also found that bilingual children gain problem solving and memory skills because they must face the challenge of navigating between two languages.

Related Links:

– “Dual Language in Early Education Best for Youngest ELLs, Report Says,” Learning the Language Blog. Education Week.

– “Dual Language Learners: Research Informing Policy” Report, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

– Center for Early Care and Education Research – Dual Language Learners

California Migrant Pre-K Program Makes Inroads

The Central California Migrant Head Start programs can serve as a model of how to effectively welcome Latino families, reports EdSource Today. Children are taught in Spanish and English.

Latino families are less likely to enroll their children in preschool programs than other ethnic groups, but some programs are making inroads. In 2011, the program became one of ten early childhood programs from across the country to be named a Head Start Center of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We know from 20 years of research that a lot of Latino parents prefer to use home-based care, and that preschools appear to be excessively formal and sometimes not inviting institutions,” University of California, Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller told the media outlet.

The story describes how 3- and 4-year old children listened to the story of the three little pigs in Spanish–but discussed the story in both English and Spanish. Classroom tools are labeled in both English and Spanish as well.

The program also recruits parents at venues as diverse as churches, flea markets and on farm job sites.

Berta Sanchez said her three-year-old daughter is doing well in the program.

“My daughter knows her ABCs, she knows the song about the ‘little star’ and she can write her name,” Sanchez told EdSource Today.

Other programs making inroads with Latino families and improving early learning opportunities include Abriendo Puertas, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), and Avance.

Are school districts in your community involved in any similar efforts?

Related Links:

– “Migrant program offers lessons for reaching Latino preschoolers,” EdSource.

– “A winning Head Start: Program for children from migrant families gets national recognition,” Santa Cruz Sentinel.

– “NCLR Spotlights Four Pre-K Programs Successful With Latino Children,” Latino Ed Beat.