Highlight the importance of preschool for all children
A public awareness campaign can underscore the importance of early learning and boost preschool enrollments, particularly among traditionally underserved families and within low-income neighborhoods. For example, city leaders can use social media, digital advertising, and social marketing to publicize school readiness milestones for children from birth to age five. Tackling the shortage of preschool programs and slots that persists in most communities is more challenging but vitally important to children’s readiness for school. Cities can launch a “Pre-K for all” campaign, explore creative financial mechanisms, and dedicate city funds or seek support from state or county sources to expand preschool opportunities for families most in need.
Encourage libraries, museums, and city agencies to support informal care providers
A large number of young children are cared for by family members, neighbors, or other informal care, known as Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers. Nearly all FFN providers are interested in tangible developmental resources that can help them promote learning and literacy skills in the children under their care. City leaders can bring together municipal agencies and key community institutions to conduct trainings and distribute materials that highlight developmentally appropriate activities. In addition, city departments can sponsor free, culturally enriching programs at community centers or local museums and support a lending library for books, toys, puzzles, games, and videos through the library system.
Incorporate early learning into land use and economic development planning
Thinking strategically about child care and preschool programs when making land use decisions and creating economic development plans can provide a big boost to early learning opportunities. Cities can provide incentives for child care facility development as part of new development projects, invest economic development or other city funding into facility development, lease underutilized municipal buildings to child care providers at low or no cost, and change zoning requirements to accommodate new child care or preschool programs in underserved areas. In some instances, city leaders may have sufficient leverage to require developers to either support construction of a child care facility or pay a per-square-footage allotment based on type of structure they are building.