Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they are taught these skills in school. Singing, talking and reading every day with your child helps build a foundation of early literacy skills so they will be ready to learn when they start school. The Sing, Talk and Read (STAR) program helps parents and caregivers learn how to weave singing, talking and reading into daily activities with their young children.
Books from Birth is a DC Public Library initiative that provides free books each month to DC families with children under the age of five. The program is free and operated in conjunction with the District’s Sing, Talk, and Read (STAR) campaign, which encourages parents and caregivers to take an active role in their child’s educational development by singing, talking, and reading with them daily.
Register to receive free video tips sent to your email or mobile phone. These short videos show how you can turn everyday activities into playful learning opportunities for your baby or toddler. Videos are available in English or Spanish.
Story time programs introduce young children to books, rhymes, music and other fun activities. Every week the library offers programs matched to the typical attention spans and developmental levels of different ages of children, birth to five. Library story times incorporate the early literacy skills, such as vocabulary building, phonological awareness, and letter knowledge that children must master before they can learn to read.
Starting June 1, participate in DC Public Library’s Summer Reading challenge. Children birth to 5 years old have a special program just for them, which gives parents and caregivers fun early literacy activities to do together with their children. You can register and play online or pick up a game board at your neighborhood library.
The Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program serves as the single point of entry for District families concerned about their child’s development. Strong Start is a city-wide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary system that provides early intervention therapies and services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. The services provided through Strong Start are flexible, culturally responsive, and aim to meet the needs of the individual child and the family.
The Strong Start Program also offers Strong Start Playgroups for children ages six months to four years. These weekly developmental playgroups offer activities to promote social interaction while emphasizing growth in all developmental domains. Playgroup sessions are facilitated by a special educator, physical and occupational therapist, each of whom has extensive experience and understanding of infants and toddlers. The Strong Start Playgroup schedule is available here [PDF].
Early Stages is a DC Public Schools (DCPS) assessment center for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months. The center helps identify children’s developmental delays and arranges services to help address them. Services are for children who have or are expected to have delays that may impact their ability to participate in their preschool setting. Early States serves children who are enrolled in DCPS, home-schooled or not yet enrolled in the school system.
Early Care and Education
The Child Care Connections Resource and Referral Service Center offers an integrated and effective system of supports and services for DC families and child development providers. Families looking for licensed child care in Washington, DC can obtain a referral through the center by phone (202) 862-1111 or by visiting the walk-in facility, which includes a resource lending library offering materials focused on child development and health. Families can also identify a provider of choice online. See more information about the subsidized child care program here. The Child Care Services Division is located at 4001 South Capitol Street SW, Washington, DC 20032. You may call them at (202) 727-0284.
The Early Learning Quality Improvement Network is a multi-year effort to build a neighborhood- based quality improvement system for early childhood development providers serving children age three and under. This new initiative focuses on building the supply of high-quality comprehensive early childhood development and family engagement services for infants and toddlers.
The District provides free high-quality pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) education services in DC Public Schools, public charter schools, and community-based organizations. All children with verified District residency and who are of pre-K age are eligible to be served in a pre-K program. Pre-K age is defined as children three years of age on or before September 30 of the upcoming school year, or four years of age, and children who become five years of age after September 30 of the upcoming school year. Click here to receive information on enrollment.
Head Start is a federal program for eligible families with preschool-aged children. Children who attend Head Start participate in a variety of educational activities and receive free medical and dental care, healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe setting. Head Start-eligible families can also participate in classes on many subjects, including child rearing, job training and health and nutrition. View the full list of Head Start grantees here.
My School DC is the common application and common lottery for the District’s public school options. These include public charter schools and the District’s traditional public schools known as DC Public Schools (DCPS). The My School DC application is an online-only application accessible at MySchoolDC.org, and the lottery is a random lottery that determines placement for new students. Submit a My School DC application if your child will be a NEW Pre-K3 or Pre-K4 student at a:
- Participating public charter school (grades Pre-K3-12)
- DCPS school outside your boundary or feeder pattern (grades Pre-K3-12), including DCPS citywide schools
- Pre-K3 or Pre-K4 program at any DCPS school (including your in-boundary school)
The My School DC Hotline is available as a resource to families who need application assistance. Call (202) 888-6336 or email [email protected], Monday – Friday (9am – 5pm). My School DC provides multilingual assistance by way of bilingual staff and interpreters.