These scenes may be familiar – parents reaching out to other children and families, neighbours supporting newcomers, caregivers accessing community resources when needed, youth reading buddies, teens being mentored by professionals, local seniors telling their stories to wide-eyed school children, community gardeners teaching children about food. The possibilities are endless….
The power is in the community!
There are many pathways to supporting children’s learning and healthy development. We now know that improving the capacity of parents, caregivers, teachers, educators and all citizens to support children is the key to improving outcomes for children. Communities are ripe with assets – parents and caregivers, stories, skills, neighbours, agencies, businesses, volunteers, schools, libraries, churches, etc. However, these assets can be untapped. Caring adults need information, tools, access to resources and supports and the inspiration to be supported in their key role. This presents an exciting opportunity – being purposeful about highlighting knowledge and best practice, and engaging the collective strengths in each and every community to support healthy development and learning.
Research shows that building skills and capacity of caring adults, resiliency, strong relationships, communities and social capital all positively impact outcomes for children. As such, Cafe’s resources offer parents several avenues to support this foundation building :
- Supporting parent leaders, family support workers, community and school educators with resources to host parents and caregivers in purposeful conversations around supporting their child’s healthy foundation. Café provides orientation and easy-to-follow resources for hosting Parent Café conversations focused on applying what we now know about early brain development and parental resilience in our day-to-day interactions with young children – see Cafe’s Early Childhood Development
- Supporting schools and/or their extended communities with resources to further engage parents and caregivers in supporting young readers. Children benefit when teachers, families and the broader communities are collectively engaged in the learning process. Our Parent Café Literacy and Learning conversation guide offers a tool for exploring the important role of caring adults in building strong readers and reading communities – see Cafe’s Supporting Literacy and Learning
- Supporting communities and their organizations in mobilizing to support children. Café offers resources for community-based leaders and educators to find collective ways to support and improve the life of our young learners by focusing on initiatives such as early childhood development, literacy, education for new Canadians, and many other community-based learning initiatives. – see Community Development Learning
The capacity-building elements inherent in Café’s framework and rationale bring together current research and developments in early childhood development, educational leadership and learning theories, along with shifts in understanding how individuals and communities can build capacity and effectively mobilize. As the critical role of parent and community engagement is increasingly understood for impacting childhood outcomes, changes in policy and practice increasingly link healthy development, learning and community development.
A Foundation of Community
We all have a role to play! A community development lens offers an avenue for engaging outward. Children cannot do it alone, nor can parents and caregivers. When we consider our hopes and dreams for the children in our life and community we are really considering our hopes for our whole society.
- A child’s relationships, environment and everyday interactions are key to building a strong foundation. (Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, Harvard Centre on the Developing Child).
- Social capital theory tells us that quality relationships with caring adults in a child’s life are linked to positive outcomes for learning and development. (Search Institute, Developmental Assets).
- Learning from successful community capacity building and mobilization is articulated in an asset-based community development (ABCD). This approach to development outlines these key shared elements of success: a focus on relationship building, a strength-based orientation, and use of existing assets. As such, we know that families and communities are filled with untapped strengths and assets that can be engaged and mobilized in support of young children. (ABCD Institute, Coady International Institute).