Since President Obama introduced a national initiative for young children in his State of the Union Address last winter, many have been waiting to see if and how this initiative will get implemented. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is one such interested citizen. Kristof published an editorial on October 27, 2013, titled “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons?” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-invest-in-preschools-or-prisons.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131027&_r=0). His editorial calls attention to the undeniable need for the President's initiative by citing research on the positive effects of early childhood programs on reductions in economic inequality, poverty, and crime rates. Furthermore, he cites studies that have found that the effects of poverty can be objectively measured through the vocabulary of 18-month-olds; that is, children living in poverty showed significantly less word/vocabulary acquisition than those from more affluent families, and thus begins the achievement gap in later school performance.
Though Kristof acknowledges the growing bipartisan support of early childhood programs at the state and national levels, as demonstrated through programs such as the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge Grants (funded by the U.S. Department of Education), he does not think it is enough. He closes his op-ed with a challenge to the public (and that would be us!) to speak up to make the national early childhood initiative a reality. Let's push to make this happen as we may never have such a window of opportunity again.
Our first article in this issue is a comprehensive review of social-emotional programs for young children. This area of development is of growing concern, as more and more young children are being identified as needing interventions because of inappropriate behaviors and/or the absence of self-management skills. In this article, Erin E. Barton and her colleagues, Elizabeth Steed, Phil Strain, Glen Dunlap, Diane Powell, and Crystal Payne, provide comprehensive descriptions of 10 classroom curricula and eight parenting interventions focused on enhancing social-emotional development in infants and young children. The authors applied previously used criteria introduced to analyze the available evidence for each program. Two thirds of the programs received medium or high ratings using this method. Implications for the use of these interventions and the need for continued research in this important area of practice are discussed.
The next article also addressed an aspect of social-emotional development: the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) as a framework for address challenging behaviors in young children. Elizabeth Steed, Jina Noh, and Kay H. Heo conducted a cross-cultural study that examined the implementation of PBIS in 121 early childhood classrooms in both South Korea and the United States. The authors were interested in the role of cultural and contextual factors on the implementation of PBIS interventions. They provide an overview of the systematic components of PBIS as implemented in the United States, as well as the differences between programs and philosophy in the United States and South Korea. The results suggested that the preschool teachers in the United States were able to implement more features of tier-based and program-wide PBIS than their colleagues in South Korea. One interesting finding was that the South Korean teachers collaborated with families significantly more than teachers in the United States in regard to their children's challenging behavior. The authors' concluded with implications for the expansion of PBIS across other cultures and countries.
Children who are culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) are a growing population in our early childhood intervention programs. Yet, our teaching workforce is not. The needs of this workforce are addressed in our next article by Rashida Banerjee and John Luckner. The authors conducted a national survey with 574 early childhood special education professionals to assess their preparation to work with children and families who are CLD. The survey also assessed current challenges when serving children who are CLD, and additional training needs in this area. Two important needs were identified: being able to identify appropriate assessment instruments for assessing children who are CLD, and working collaboratively with families who are CLD. The authors conclude by providing recommendations for both preservice and inservice training programs that prepare early childhood interventionists to serve children and families who are CLD.
The benefits of intervention on early literacy development in Singapore were examined in the next article. Wan Har Chong, Dennis W. Moore, Karen P. Nonis, Hui Nee Tang, Patricia Koh, and Sharon Wee authored a study that provided data on the effectiveness of a 15-week community-based emergent literacy intervention implemented with young children. The program, called Mission I'm Possible (MIP), was designed for children who have mild developmental delays. The article describes the key features of MIP as well as the importance of implementing the program in the community with the assistance of learning support educators. In this study, MIP was implemented with 35 at-risk preschool children who had reading difficulties. Their scores across a number of measures were compared with 39 typically developing classroom peers through a nonequivalent group research design. The program proved efficacious across a variety of reading and prereading skills, suggesting that this program results in positive outcomes for children at risk for reading. The authors close by suggesting how the facilitation of literacy development can enhance learning trajectories and social status later in life.
Our last article by Celia Hsiao and Linda M. Richter present an overview of the influence of early development on children's cognitive and behavioral outcomes. The article is from South Africa, and it presents an examination of the growth, health, well-being, and educational progress of 167 young urban South African children who were part of a larger Birth to Twenty cohort study. This study also examined the role of family factors in moderating children's developmental outcomes during their first 5 years. Findings suggested that children with the poorest mental development at 1 year of age also had the poorest cognitive and behavioral outcomes at 5 years of age, yet higher levels of maternal education controlled the negative impacts of early developmental delay. The authors provide a discussion about the need for comprehensive interventions for infants and young children and their families in middle- and low-income countries in order to facilitate children's optimal potential.
As always, I would like to thank the authors for sharing their work with Infants & Young Children and the editors who helped with the editorial process. This issue contains three articles on work in countries other than the United States, articles from new authors, and articles from the AUCD network.
Happy holidays to all.
Mary Beth Bruder, PhD