Giving Compass' Take:
- This brief highlights the policy efforts to implement language access programs for U.S. children ages 0 to 5 who are Dual Language Learners (DLLs).
- What are the long-term benefits of increasing language access programs in early childhood education? How can donors help strengthen these programs?
- Learn more about young dual language learners.
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One-third of U.S. children ages 0 to 5 are Dual Language Learners (DLLs), meaning they have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home. These children speak an increasingly diverse range of languages and have the potential to thrive as multilingual and multicultural individuals, given the right support. But while years of research have shown that DLLs benefit disproportionately from early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs, the evidence also shows they enroll in such programs at lower rates than other young children.
Language can play an important role in a program’s accessibility. Nearly half of all DLLs have a parent who is Limited English Proficient (LEP), and LEP parents may find it difficult to identify and enroll their children in ECEC programs and communicate with staff on a day-to-day basis. Language access policies and services that facilitate these families’ participation in a language they speak are a prerequisite to promoting DLLs’ equitable participation.
This policy brief explores federal and state efforts to implement language access policies in major ECEC programs: the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG); the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program; Head Start; and state pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs. It also discusses evidence of disparities in access to these programs and highlights opportunities to improve language access across early childhood services.
Read the full article about language access programs by Maki Park, Jacob Hofstetter, and Ivana Tú Nhi Giang at Migration Policy Institute.
Language can play a particularly important role in facilitating access. Nearly half of all DLLs, about 3.3 million children, have at least one parent who reports speaking English “less than very well.” For these Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, language barriers to accessing early childhood services are often compounded by other obstacles, including lower levels of formal education and limited access to digital technology and the internet. Language access policies and services for LEP parents of young children, therefore, are a prerequisite to promoting the equitable participation of DLL children in public ECEC programs.