Have you checked on the new census data for your state and community? In Iowa, the census data shows that between 2000 and 2010 our Latino population grew nearly 84 percent. According to the State Data Center of Iowa, Latinos have a higher concentration of preschoolers among the population than any other race or ethnic group. You can find more of these statistics in the document Latinos in Iowa 2011.
Knowing information related to our changing communities helps us to plan and prepare for being open and inviting. We might think we already are, but a recent article in Education Week shared that nationally preschool program enrollment by Latinos is declining. The article speculates that the increase in Latino population numbers, yet decrease in enrollment, is due to a variety reasons such as Latino families relying on relatives for child care more than other population groups. Linda M. Espinosa, a professor emeritus of early childhood education at the University of Missouri, shares that she believes in many communities where Latino families are settling there are inadequate numbers of early childhood programs that are culturally/linguistically appropriate.
So, what can we do? The NAEYC Position Statement: Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Recommendations for Effective Early Childhood Educators is an excellent resource to get us started. I love this statement, “When early childhood educators acknowledge and respect children’s home language and culture, ties between the family and programs are strengthened. This atmosphere provides increased opportunity for learning because young children feel supported, nurtured, and connected not only to their home communities and families but also to teachers and the educational setting.” To me, this means we honor home language, that we take the time to learn what the families in our program value and make changes or accommodations where needed, and that we encourage the engagement of all families in their child’s education.
So, let’s hear from you! In what ways are you reaching out and working to relate to children and families whose language and cultural background is different than your own?