Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Early Literacy

A research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Lead for Literacy, is publishing a series of simple, one-page memos to address current pitfalls in literacy education and propose solutions to these pitfalls. 

One of the memos ("Literacy Unpacked: What Do We Mean by Literacy?") simply defines what we mean by the term literacy and the educational implications for that understanding.  A key component of their explanation is that literacy is not simple; it requires a very complex set of skills and knowledge. 
The skills involved in literacy are:

  • Concepts about print
  • The ability to hear & work with spoken sounds
  • Alphabet knowledge
  • Word reading
  • Spelling
  • Fluency

The knowledge required for literacy includes:

  • Concepts about the world
  • The ability to understand & express complex ideas
  • Vocabulary
  • Oral language skills

The biggest educational implications of this understanding is that most of the literacy skills are acquired by 3rd grade and these skills are heavily influenced by relatively short periods of instruction.  However, the knowledge component of literacy is acquired throughout a lifetime; infancy to adulthood.  This component requires "sustained instruction, beginning in early childhood".  

While it's never too late to learn to read, this deconstruction of the components of literacy make a very strong case for early literacy education to help prevent future reading difficulties.

To see all of the memos, visit the Harvard Graduate School of Education Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=lesaux&pageid=icb.page541445

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Child Care Program

Does your policy for keeping the surfaces in your program clean distinguish between cleaning and disinfecting?  I have spoken to many people who believe that these two processes are one in the same.  They're not.  Cleaning involves physically removing dirt and germs from surfaces whereas disinfecting involves actually killing the germs.  Cleaning is not enough; surfaces must be sanitized as well.  (You can find our Standard Precautions Policy here.) 

First of all, program staff must know which surfaces need to be cleaned when.  Surfaces that are visibly soiled should be cleaned immediately.  When things are not visibly soiled, each staff member must know what his or her individual responsibility is in keeping the facility clean on a regularly-scheduled basis. 

There are some products that clean and disinfect simultaneously.  These products can be effective, but only if the manufacturer's directions are followed carefully.

If using separate cleaners and sanitizers, start with the cleaning solution to remove any surface soil.  Once the surface is clean and dry, it can then be sanitized.  The biggest issues to watch in both of these processes is ensuring that you are using the right type of product (cleaner or sanitizer) for each type of surface (wood, linoleum, etc.), that you are mixing the product properly (if required), and that you are using the product according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Sanitizers typically need to either dry naturally or, as a minimum, be allowed to remain on the surface for a certain amount of time.  If staff is sanitizing at the end of the day, they can probably just leave the product to dry naturally.  If not, it will need to be wiped off, but must remain on the surface for the minimum amount of time first in order to be effective.

Care must also be taken to keep office staff healthy.  Most electronic devices can be cleaned and sanitized with disposable disinfecting wipes, so don't forget your phones, computer keyboards, etc. in your cleaning routine.

Keeping the surfaces in your program clean and sanitary is one of your most effective ways of preventing illnesses among the children and staff.  Here's to a healthy winter!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Child Care Transportation

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the top cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 12.  Child care programs take on an additional liability when they decide to offer transportation services. 

The surest way to keep children (and adults) safe in your vehicles is to spend time thinking about the risks of the situation and plan how to minimize those risks.  You also need to think about how to respond if something doesn't go according to plan. 

A Transportation Policy needs to address issues such as:
  • Who can drive for you?
  • What sort of insurance you will maintain?
  • What kind of vehicle will you have?
  • How will you maintain your vehicle safely?
  • What kind of paperwork do you need to keep?
  • What steps will you take to keep children and staff safe when they are outside of your facility?

Think about the risks involved in transporting children, have a plan to minimize those risks, train your staff on the plan, inform parents of your plan, and help the children understand their responsibilities in keeping safe.  These simple steps can help you keep children safe when they are not in your facility.
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Employment Offers in Child Care

By now, you've put in a lot of time and effort to make sure that you are ready to hire the person who is the best possible fit for your program.  Now it's just a matter of securing their services and notifying those you did not choose.

As an employer, the most important part of hiring is to make sure that you make an employment offer that is not, and cannot be confused for, an employment contract.  You have to maintain the flexibility to let the person go, in the off chance that things don't go quite as well as you had hoped.  We extend a verbal offer, then follow up with a formal offer letter that has to be signed and returned within a certain amount of time. 

Once we receive the signed offer letter, we send rejection letters to applicants that were not offered positions.  (One letter for those who interviewed with us and a different letter for those that were not granted interviews.)  For those who were granted an interview, we assure them that we will keep their application on file for consideration for future openings.

Now it's time to start working with your new employee to help him or her to become a valuable member of your team.
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net