Toronto’s Hot Docs festival offerings on multiculturalism, integration, equity, racism & child rights

Among the showings at Toronto’s annual Hot Docs film festival, running from April 29-May 9, 2010 are:

In the Name of the Family ~ about Aqsa Parvez and her so-called honour killing

Listen to This ~ Pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo starts a music program at his former school in Toronto’s Jane-Finch community

Babies ~ just babies in settings around the world (also see film website)

Grace, Milly, Lucy … Child Soldiers ~ the lives of Ugandan child soldiers

The Day I Will Never Forget ~ about female genital mutilation in Kenya

Made in India ~ about tourist surrogacy and the reproductive industry in developing countries.

Children’s books: anti-bias, multicultural, multilingual

Two more sources for children’s books about immigration, culture, and etc., following on three of the most popular posts on

Children’s books about immigration, originally posted January 2008

Children’s books about immigration II, originally posted March 2008

Children’s books about immigration III, originally posted Oct 2008.

See the page “Anti-Bias and Multicultural Books for Children” on the website by A World of Difference. Also recommended on the NAME listserv is an annotated bibliography by Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs, of the Second Language Education program at VirginiaTech. Here is the bibliography in PDF.

We’re building quite a comprehensive selection of multicultural, multilingual books for young children to learn about culture, multiculturalism, anti-bias and equity. Please add more!

School readiness in children with special needs whose first language is not English/French

In response to community-level needs for empirical data on special populations and on small populations, Dr. Magdalena Janus and her colleagues at the Canadian Council on Learning presents “Patterns of school readiness among selected subgroups of Canadian children: Children with special needs and children with diverse language backgrounds”.

School readiness between children without special needs and whose first language was either English or French was compared to the school readiness of children with special needs whose first language was neither English/French.

UNESCO report on bi- & multilingual education in the early years

UNESCO has released a report Enhancing learning of children from diverse learning backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years. Dr. Jessica Ball reviews research and practice and addresses the importance of multilingual education for young children. The review will:

“(1) inform policy-makers of existing research and practices in mother-tongue instruction in early childhood and early primary school years; and

“(2) raise awareness of the value of maintaining the world’s languages and cultures by promoting and resourcing mother tongue-based education for young children”.

Call for papers: Special edition on ethnic minority children

The Society for Research in Child Development journal Child Development Perspectives is seeking papers for a special issue focusing on “positive development of minority children. This special issue will feature emerging trends and new conclusions that have advanced the understanding and knowledge base of positive development with regard to ethnic minority children”.

Deadlines for abstracts is May 15, 2010. For more information, see the SRCD website.

Senate report on early childhood education and care ~ a follow-up

In April 2009, the Senate released a report on early childhood education and care, calling for – among other things – a collaborative effort among federal government departments to address the early learning and child care needs of newcomer children. (See the May 3, 2009 post on for full details).

On December 15, 2009, a follow-up statement was made by Senator The Honourable Art Eggleton. It is repeated here, fyi.

Hon. Art Eggleton: “Honourable senators, I rise today to make a statement on the government’s response to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology report, Early Childhood Education and Care: Next Steps, which was adopted by the Senate on June 22, 2009.

“Honourable senators, I am disappointed that the government did not implement the recommendations in our report. The government does not want to appoint a minister of state for children and youth, even though we have a Minister of State for Seniors and even though it would send a clear signal that Canada understands the importance of young people to its future.

“The government does not want to have a permanent national advisory council on children to draw on the best minds from across the country on how best to support parents and children.

“The consultation process they cite in their letter happened over two years ago, and many from the early childhood education and care community tell me that consultations are no longer happening.

“The government does not want to develop a pan-Canadian framework with the provinces and territories that would recognize and respect federal, provincial and territorial leadership as essential elements of developing early childhood education. Instead, they are content with the patchwork of provincial programs that exist today.

“Instead of becoming a champion for the 21st century family, the government has essentially abdicated that role to others. This is disappointing because national leadership is crucial at this time. Now more than ever, our children need the right skills and knowledge to ensure that they will manage the many challenges they are facing in school, in society and in the workforce.

“In addition, as our report pointed out overwhelmingly, scientific research shows that the early years are vital to this development because that period sets the foundation for confidence and skill development, which help children to become highly literate and mathematically competent later in life.

“Honourable senators, based on the government’s response, I am not sure that the government understands that early learning is about much more than simply the transferring of care giving responsibility from a parent to someone else. It is about shaping our future by investing in our children and by creating a system that will help every child succeed.

“In those areas where the federal government has direct responsibility, such as for Aboriginal children, the response from the government is practically silent. Sadly, the record in this area continues to be discouraging. Incidents of behavioural challenges, as well as cognitive and language delays, are more prevalent in Aboriginal communities than in other Canadian communities, and could be aided by providing quality early childhood education and care.

“In closing, honourable senators, as the Honourable Margaret McCain said before the committee, “The best single investment Canada can make for social justice and the optimal development of our children is to get them off to a good early start by building a high-quality evidence-based early childhood development system.”

An early learning framework for immigrant and refugee children

As the Ontario government launched their Best Start initiative in 2003, they struck several “expert panels” to advise them on best practices in delivering quality early learning and child care. One of the expert panels developed an Early Learning Framework, also referred to as the Early Learning for Every Child Today curriculum, or ELECT. This post explores the opportunity to adapt the framework to meet the unique needs of immigrant and refugee children.

The Early Learning Framework (ELF) provides a common framework for early childhood practitioners on what and how young children learn. It is complementary to all early childhood settings and curricula. The ELF strengthens practitioner’s ability to support young children’s early learning, growth and development.

The ELF has wide support within the early childhood community; the framework has been well received by the early childhood community and has been implemented in several locations (see the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development).

A settlement-focused complementary ELF, will support settlement workers in understanding and responding to the specific settlement issues of young children.

The ELF describes “how young children learn and develop (p.1)”. A settlement-focused ELF could describe how young newcomer children learn, develop, and settle. Newcomer children have specific needs, different from children of the dominant culture. The ELF does not address issues specific to immigrant and refugee children (although a background paper on diversity, equity and inclusion was prepared for and is briefly cited in the ELF). For example, in a section on brain development, a settlement-focused ELF might more fully include the research on the impact of trauma on developing brains. This is important information for practitioners working with newcomer children, especially refugee children fleeing war-torn countries and/or environmental disasters.

The ELF acknowledges the important role that families and communities play in the development of young children. A settlement-focused ELF could expand on this element and include discussion of differing values in a range of cultures and how newcomers cope with and learn to parent in a new socio-cultural context.

The ELF contains a “statement of principles… based on beliefs, values, experience and current research findings” and includes this statement “Respect for diversity, equity and inclusion are prerequisites for honouring children’s rights, optimal development and learning”. A settlement-focused ELF could begin with a similar statement but expand and ground its framework from an equity and inclusion starting point.

Using the ELF as a foundation, practitioners will share the same language as practitioners in other settings, furthering their ability to connect/liaise on behalf of newcomer children with practitioners in related sectors and therefore ease newcomer children transition into formal early learning and child care services and kindergarten.

A proposed structure for a settlement-focused ELF would mirror the ELF Table of Contents (p.3), with some changes, adjustments and additions.  For example, in addition to the section on “Understanding Children’s Development”, a settlement-focused ELF might include a section on “Understanding Settlement Issues for Children and Parents”. A glossary would be indispensable in helping practitioners understand and use a common language to discuss settlement, integration, racism, transnational families, trauma (PTSD) and etc.

The ELF itself endorses the development of a kind of settlement-focused ELF:

“Young children with different abilities, challenges, resources and cultural backgrounds and their families come together in early childhood settings. They bring unique life experiences and orientations. They and their families benefit most when they are fully included and when they feel that they belong. Children grow up with a strong sense of self in environments that promote attitudes, beliefs and values of equity and democracy and support their full participation. To include everyone, early childhood settings must encourage healthy dialogue about the principles and shared beliefs that relate to inclusion, diversity, and equity. They must recognize every child as a citizen with equal rights and unique views about how to participate in the world. To turn belief statements and principles into practice at the community level requires an infrastructure that actively promotes engagement of all children and their families (p. 12)”.

The development and use of a settlement-focused ELF would also demonstrate collaboration across jurisdictions, if jointly supported by the federal and provincial governments. Importantly, the inclusion of the core components of the ELF in a settlement-focused curriculum document would support quality early learning and care environments and outcomes for newcomer children.

I welcome expressions of interest in developing a settlement-focused early learning curriculum. See my contact info.