“It’s a very welcoming place to be”
When Tanya Smith, an Educational Consultant with All Our Kin, walks into Daniela’s child care program on a pleasant Friday morning in September, the children immediately gravitate towards her. They come bright-eyed and smiling, bringing along whatever toy they happen to be holding at the moment, all eager to involve their guest in their morning playtime. This isn’t new to Tanya—this is how she is always received when she visits Daniela. “The warmth from the children is a reflection of Daniela and the way she runs her program. It’s a very welcoming place to be,” Tanya explains.
Daniela is the vibrant family child care provider who owns ABC Kid’z Home Daycare in Hamden. Right now, she has five children in her program. The oldest is almost four years old, and proud of it! The youngest is a year and a half. They keep Daniela on her toes, but she doesn’t mind. She has an endless supply of energy, and her love for and commitment to her job as an early childhood educator is evident in every move and interaction.
A Dedication to Continuous Learning
As part of the Read, Count, Grow program, Daniela receives monthly educational coaching and mentoring from Tanya that is centered on quality in early childhood learning and the age-appropriate introduction of math and literacy skills. Daniela began the 10-month program back in March. Before Read, Count, Grow, Daniela was already actively involved in All Our Kin’s professional development events, but she wanted more. “I know there is so much to learn and I always want to bring new activities and ways of learning to the children in my program. I want them to be kindergarten-ready. I know that Read, Count, Grow will help me get them there,” Daniela says.
During her visits, Tanya coaches and models activities, experiences, and interactions
based on research around how young children learn best, often bringing new materials for the children to engage with. On this particular visit, Tanya brings a book, beads, string, and color boards. Daniela is constantly looking for ways to ensure that all the children in her program are actively engaged in an activity. In response to this, Tanya is careful to demonstrate strategies around how to include the youngest children while challenging the older ones.
So, while the youngest children are busy rolling the beads across the table, occasionally putting a bead on the corresponding color board, the oldest girl is placing the beads on a string, following a pattern provided by Tanya. When she is done, Tanya asks her: “How many beads do you have on the string? Can you count them for me? What is the pattern?” Daniela follows suit, asking, “What colors are the beads? Can you name the shapes? What do you think comes next?” Already, Daniela is putting into practice strategies that Tanya has just modeled. She is a pro at applying what she learns through Read, Count, Grow to her program.
Maximizing Teachable Moments
The learning doesn’t stop when Tanya is done with the Read, Count, Grow activity. It continues as Daniela proceeds with her morning routine. During circle time, Daniela reads an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, during which she points to a picture of the Wolf and asks, “How do you think he is feeling right now?” “Sad! He’s sad!” One girl exclaims, running up to the wall and pointing to the “sad face” on the feeling chart that is hanging there. The feeling chart is just one way in which Daniela has very purposefully designed her child care space to facilitate learning.
After circle time, it’s snack time! Before the visit, Tanya described some of the ways Daniela uses snack time to support school readiness. On this day, Daniela builds on the experiences modeled earlier by Tanya. Each child has a plate and cup set of a different color. They know which set is theirs, and call out the colors as they take their plates. This may seem subtle, but it is the small ways in which Daniela so seamlessly integrates learning experiences into daily activities and playtime that make her program a space for continuous early learning.
Building Support in Family Child Care
While the kids munch away on their cheese and crackers, Daniela takes advantage of the quiet moment to debrief with Tanya. She asks for copies of Read, Count, Grow materials and discusses needs and behaviors she has observed in the children. The providers and educational consultants in the Read, Count, Grow program build strong relationships that truly improve the quality of work on both ends. While Daniela names the support she gets from Tanya as one of her favorite aspects of the program, Tanya also draws on her conversations with Daniela to take her work to the next level. “The tremendous responsibility that Daniela places on herself rubs off on me too—because she is so committed to her role as an early childhood educator, I am driven to constantly find new and better ways to support her work,” Tanya reflects.
Ending on a Joyful Note
Before the visit comes to an end, it is time for some outdoor play. Daniela has a beautiful outdoor space with plenty of room to explore and a playground fit for hours of fun. This is clearly a highlight for the children; their excitement is tangible. As they run, jump, skip, swing, climb, and play, it is easy to forget that the learning never stops. But then one girl points out shapes in the clouds, and another starts counting her jumps on the trampoline, and everything comes full circle.
Daniela looks on and smiles. “One thing I’ve realized through Read, Count, Grow is that there are many different ways to introduce an idea or learn a concept. Math is not just numbers on a paper, it is everywhere. Even while playing outside, they are learning.” Her pride in her program and in the children’s progress is evident and well-deserved. Through her compassion and dedication, and with some help from Tanya and Read, Count, Grow, Daniela’s children won’t just be ready for kindergarten—they will be ready to succeed in life.
For more information about Read, Count, Grow, visit www.allourkin.org/read-count-grow