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You are to design a childcare program that could improve the early experiences of children living in a poor community. What sorts of activities would you include in your program? How would you involve parents in the program? How would you measure the success of your program?

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Since literacy is one of the key aspects in improving a child's potential to achieve academically, your childcare program should definitely factor in ways to engage young children with books. Sixty percent of low-income families cannot afford books, and children who live in poverty are already eighteen months behind their same-age peers by the time they are four years old. You might consider taking trips to the local library or having the library deliver books to your program on a regular basis. Introducing children to all kinds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, will expand the scope of their creativity and their vision of the world. You might ask for parents to volunteer as "mystery readers" to involve them in your efforts. You might also ask particularly creative parents to design art projects for a book and then co-teach the children for a day. Or you might ask them to help you with science experiments related to nonfiction works.

Children living in poverty often lack many life experiences simply because they lack the financial ability to engage in activities that require a financial investment. Most communities have programs which are designed to serve economically disadvantaged children, so check your local theaters, zoos, museums, and even restaurants to see what they might offer. You also might identify individuals in your community who are willing to volunteer their time to teach music lessons to young children or have them visit your class to share their love of music with your students. Many places offer a free paid adult chaperone ticket for every X number of children who visit, so you could target parental involvement this way.

Economically disadvantaged children often do not have reliable access to food and have therefore developed food insecurities. Depending on where you live, your local school district might be able to assist in efforts to provide meals to children in the evenings and through the weekend. There are also grants available to aid in these efforts, as well as various community outreach programs which serve hungry children in communities. Making sure that children receive proper and balanced nourishment helps ensure healthy mental and physical growth. You might involve parents by asking them to help you prepare weekend meal bags for the students each Friday.

Developing an engaging, educationally focused environment is of paramount importance. Modeling an enthusiasm for learning while immersing these young students in rich vocabulary, creative activities, and critical yet age-appropriate thinking can improve children's cognitive abilities in both the short and the long term. You could measure this success in a structured way, administering formal tests when students enter your program and when they complete the program each year. You could also measure the success through anecdotal evidence, collecting personal stories of improvement from children and their families throughout the year.

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