Supporting Head Start Families Reading at Home During COVID-19

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COVID-19 has created challenges for every community across the country, Head Start programs and families included. Head Start’s commitment to providing children with high quality early education, whole health and nutrition services, and other resources has remained strong, even as these new challenges have emerged during these last five months. NHSA has teamed up with Scholastic and the Clinton Foundation’s early learning initiative, Too Small to Fail, to meet one of the many needs of families — access to books at home.

The “Family Book Bundle” program was created to help families in under-resourced communities build at-home libraries while learning at home due to the COVID crisis. Each bundle promotes children’s early language and literacy development with six books focused on a variety of themes (physical activity, early math, nutrition, feelings, play & imagination, and diversity & inclusion). This resource was developed in collaboration with Scholastic and Too Small to Fail to fill the distance learning needs that Head Start families are facing as some programs continue to operate remotely this fall.

“Parents who partner with Head Start are more likely to read to their children, and this initiative will continue that story of success by helping families build their in-home libraries,” NHSA’s Executive Director Yasmina Vinci said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more critical for children to have their own high-quality educational resources accessible in their homes.”

Scholastic also knows the importance of building a strong at-home learning environment for all families. “Providing access to engaging reading materials is crucial for all children, particularly right now to help mitigate potential learning loss and support their social-emotional needs during this unprecedented year,” said Dr. Karen Burke, Senior Vice President of Data Analysis and Academic Planning at Scholastic. “Stories have the power to help children gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, which is why we’re so excited to collaborate with the National Head Start Association to ensure that reading continues for families nationwide.”

Too Small to Fail Director Jane Park notes that they’re “laser-focused on meeting parents where they are with the resources they need to surround children with language and learning opportunities to help their children thrive.” She shared that this mission is even more urgent in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic where the lives and livelihoods of parents, caregivers, and educators are at risk.

That’s why we’ve also included in the bundles Too Small to Fail’s “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing Indoor Activities Kit,” which provides helpful ideas to keep little ones engaged and learning while at home through talking, reading, singing, and playing. These bundles are available for Head Start programs to purchase and distribute to the families they serve. Bundles can be ordered online at www.scholastic.com/familybookbundle.

Almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further exacerbate these gaps, with reports estimating significant learning loss for children due to school and child care closures. As Head Start continues to work to close school readiness gaps through the COVID crisis, providing families with the resources they need is critical. NHSA is proud to team up with Scholastic and Too Small to Fail to be a part of this effort to support Head Start families as they navigate this challenging time.

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NHSA is a nonprofit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life.

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