Preparing Early Childhood Providers on Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

Feb 12, 2010

In the past decade, the share of young children in immigrant families has increased in over three-quarters of states. As the share of children from culturally and linguistically diverse groups grows, it is critical for states to think about how to support the unique needs of these diverse families. Pennsylvania, which has seen a 40 percent increase in the proportion of young children in immigrant families since 2000, offers a promising example of state efforts to build a more responsive early childhood system.

Pennsylvania's Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has taken various measures to ensure that early childhood providers are prepared to serve diverse families. For instance, the OCDEL organizes an annual Higher Education Institute, which focuses on improving providers' skills and understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity. The institute has covered topics, such as instructional strategies for young English Language Learners (ELL) and forming partnerships with families of varied cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, the state has established core competencies on what early childhood providers should know and be able to do to provide high-quality care. Included in the core competencies is an emphasis on understanding and providing appropriate services and supports to culturally and linguistically diverse children. Among other resources, the state has created an ELL Toolkit to further help providers and others serving young children of immigrant families. The toolkit addresses key issues about cultural and linguistic diversity:

  • Defines cultural competence,
  • Elucidates myths and truths about ELLs,
  • Explains second language acquisition and learning, and
  • Provides strategies for building and sustaining cultural competence, including best practices.

Addressing cultural and linguistic competence is essential for ensuring that all young children have access to the most effective services and supports they need for healthy development as our young child population continues to grow in diversity.  

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