By Carolyn Newberry Schwartz
Executive Director, Collaboration for Early Childhood
“Baby can’t wait” is a phrase you hear often at the Collaboration for Early Childhood. A compelling body of research shows the vital role early experiences play in a child’s ability to grow up healthy and ready to succeed.
The Collaboration for Early Childhood, a public/private partnership, was born in 2002 out of the sense of urgency created by this research and in response to the nagging disparities in achievement between groups of children in our schools. We work with more than 65 early childhood service providers in Oak Park and River Forest because our children deserve access to high-quality early learning and care experiences; our parents should have the resources and supports they need to nurture their children’s development.
We train staff in early childhood programs, work with our partners to coordinate outreach and referrals between quality child care and home-visiting programs and families, and work with health and early learning providers to screen children for developmental delays. We also provide parents and guardians with support and information and publish the Early Childhood Resource Directory.
The partnership between the Collaboration and the Oak Park Public Library is a great example of how we coordinate and leverage our resources. The library supports the Collaboration’s annual symposium, which draws 350–400 participants, as well as special author and speaker events.
To add resources for child care and preschool staff to its collection, the library turned to the Collaboration for guidance and recommendations. The Collaboration also is drawing on library staff’s creativity and early literacy expertise to plan workshops for the early childhood workforce to earn professional development credit.
The library’s vibrant early literacy programs and resources are an important part of the fabric of early childhood in Oak Park. We are excited about our deepening relationship and the growing possibilities to improve supports for the early childhood community.