New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education has received a $1.3 million federal grant to establish a training and research program under the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Reading First initiative.

NYU’s Early Reading First project will create Centers of Excellence in five New York City early childhood programs. NYU early literacy specialists will work with teachers to develop play and learning activities that foster interest in literacy. The sites include publicly-subsidized child-care, Head Start and Universal Pre-Kindergarten classrooms serving low-income families.

“Unlike some efforts going on around the country, we are not trying to create academic preschools,” said Sheila Smith, project director. “Instead, our approach is based on research that shows the key to future academic success is supporting children in all areas of cognitive and social- emotional development, through play, art and other age-appropriate activities.”

According to NYU researchers, just as children are beginning to learn the alphabet and before embarking on phonics, there is an incredible window of opportunity to nurture children’s love of books, language and learning through activities appropriate for 4-year-olds. NYU’s team will work with early childhood teachers to develop strategies, such as games, art projects and word play that will serve as a foundation for developing literacy skills and preparing children for kindergarten.

The NYU program will extend its services to parents, launching a series of workshops, providing assistance in establishing on-site lending libraries of support materials and take-home activities to help them prepare their children for kindergarten. Additionally, the grant will enable the NYU team to study the children in the schools to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

The Early Literacy Initiative will be administered through the Child and Family Policy Center in the Steinhardt School of Education headed by Steinhardt Associate Dean LaRue Allen. NYU was the only university in New York to receive one of the 30 Early Reading First grants awarded nationwide. About Early Reading First

Administered through the U.S. Department of Education, Early Reading First grants support projects that incorporate strategies, curricula, materials and professional development for teachers to prepare young children for entry into kindergarten with the necessary skills that can avert reading difficulties and ensure academic success. About The Child and Family Policy Center

The Child and Family Policy Center brings state-of-the field knowledge about how to promote children’s healthy development and school success to the forefront of policymaking, program design, and practice. Faculty and researchers affiliated with the Center conduct research and provide technical assistance. This work is supported by the School’s faculty, which includes scholars in child development, health, and education.

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