The theme of the 2014 Week of the Young Child™ is Early Years are Learning Years®. You can communicate this message in a variety of ways, such as by inviting families to special program celebrations, creating a public display, arranging community-wide activities of interest to children, providing free health screenings and immunizations, or promoting early childhood education to community leaders. Any of these activities can be planned and carried out by a single program or classroom. However, you can make an even greater impact by organizing with parents and other community members.
Successful outreach to the broader community requires seeking input from parents and members of related community groups early on in the process. Active outreach and inclusion across the full community offer two important benefits to your efforts. Actively involving diverse groups can help to raise the quality of services available for a significant number of children and their families who might not otherwise be reached, and it can help to establish positive relationships between various groups within the community around an issue of equal importance to all.
Use a step-by-step process to work with others planning and carrying out activities.
Good planning is the key to a successful celebration and there are many questions to answer during the process. What kinds of activities will you organize? What level of involvement will these events require? What type of budget do you have to work with? How far in advance will you need to reserve space or line up popular speakers for your events? What kind of permits or permissions might be required? How can you build broad community involvement? Use these steps to help you through the planning process:
Step 1: Identify your goals. Use the activity ideas in this guide and brainstorm with family and community partners about your goals and potential activities. Your Week of the Young Child™ celebration may be large or small—whatever works best for your program or community. In some communities, the Week of the Young Child™ has become a huge event, eagerly awaited by children, families, and community leaders alike. In other places the celebration is much smaller and more narrowly focused. The key is to determine the level of celebration that your group will be able to implement successfully and then build from there.
Step 2: Form committee(s). Forming a committee helps to ensure that your planning and implementation activities remain focused and on-task. For large celebrations, consider forming separate committees for different functions and also appoint a small steering committee. The more people you can involve in the planning the better! People who have invested their time and energy into planning the celebration are the ones most likely to build support for it among others.
Step 3: Delegate responsibilities. Decide on the various responsibilities for each committee and then assign specific roles to committee members or subcommittees. Each member or subcommittee should have clearly designated responsibilities with specific duties and time lines. This will avoid confusion (as in, "I thought you were doing that!") or overlapping responsibilities. Giving people a clear outline of their responsibilities can make it easier for them to agree to participate because they know what the job will entail. A clear set of responsibilities and time lines also allows everyone to easily monitor progress toward the goal.
- Step 4: Consider co-sponsors. The broader the support for your celebration, the more likely your success! Co-sponsoring organizations lend their visibility and respect within the community. Co-sponsors may provide funding or in-kind support, such as display space, meeting or office space, fliers and brochures, postage, printing, and free air time on television or radio. Consider local businesses that serve young children and their families, such as children’s clothing stores, toy stores, groceries, and fast-food restaurants, as well as radio and television stations and newspapers, especially family-oriented publications. Civic and philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, local and state governments, and community programs working with young children and their families can also be approached regarding their involvement.
Use funding strategies to cover activity expenses.
Nearly all Week of the Young Child™ activities involve some costs. Groups working collaboratively can share financial responsibility or volunteer resources to minimize expenses.
Include Week of the Young Child™ funding in your annual budget.
Request funds or in-kind donations from individuals, businesses, or local foundations.
Sell advertising in directories or brochures distributed during the Week or in special tabloids or newspaper supplements.
Design your own logo to use on promotional items such as T-shirts or tote bags and sell these along with Week of the Young Child™ resources available from NAEYC.
- If your plans include a special event or activity (such as a business forum, community fair, or reception to honor early childhood staff) arrange donations specific to the event by asking a local business or service organization to underwrite the cost of materials (decorations, food, equipment rentals, awards, etc.) in exchange for publicity or asking the group to provide in-kind support for materials or services (such as a printer donating invitations or programs).
Make outreach to community partners a priority.
Notify early childhood programs, providers, and others early on about upcoming Week of the Young Child events and opportunities for involvement.
Use newsletters and fliers to provide background information about the Week and planned events, as well as to solicit participation by various groups. Include your email address and link to your program's Web site. This will make it easier for those who want to participate to respond quickly.
Follow up with additional mailings to report on the progress of your plans, to remind groups or individuals of their commitments, and to keep the momentum building for your celebration. Highlighting the plans of specific programs or groups is a great way to stimulate others to also try these activities or develop others of their own.
Use telephone trees (one person calls several individuals, who each agree to call several more people), group faxes, or e-mails to notify or remind people about approaching deadlines or upcoming events.
- Publicize the involvement of schools, programs, and providers. Promoting the list of participants will likely encourage others to also take part; an end result, such as a parents’ directory or calendar, can be a valuable community resource for parents and others.
Recognize the role community partners can play in reaching the public.
Early childhood programs can often involve parents in ways that require minimum amounts of time and effort, for example, by asking parents to distribute fliers to colleagues at work or in their congregation at church or to wear a Week of the Young Child™ button. Parents can participate with their children to prepare materials for displays or art festivals or assist in collecting family photographs for display.
Involving businesses or corporations that have innovative programs to assist families or early care and education programs is a great way to recognize these leaders and encourage others to follow their example. Representatives of outstanding companies can be seminar speakers, award recipients, or special guests at specific events. Other businesses can support the Week by donating refreshments, contributing supplies and services, offering free advertising, or submitting a supporting statement to local media.
Public officials (and those seeking office, especially during an election year) will be eager to participate in Week of the Young Child™ events. Your celebration can be a great time to forge new relationships with public officials or to cement your ongoing relationships. The Week of the Young Child offers a great forum for parents and others to let their elected representatives know how well they feel their community, state, and nation are serving children’s needs and to provide a public reminder of the importance of children’s issues.
Contact your local or state NAEYC Affiliate to see what their celebration plans are, what type of events are planned in your area, and to let them know about the events you are planning.