Early Learning: LEARN – SHARE – PLEDGE

Ninety percent of child’s brain is already developed by age 5. Children’s earliest experiences have long-lasting effects on their potential to succeed in life.

That’s why First 5 Riverside, the Riverside County Children & Families Commission, is committed to ensuring our youngest children in Riverside County have the best start in life. To shapanel2re early learning work, challenges and opportunities in the Riverside County Third Supervisorial District, First 5 Riverside recently hosted a Quality Start – Riverside County panel discussion with experts, policymakers and other community stakeholders.

Debbie Clark-Crews, Executive Director of the Riverside County Child Care Consortium and First 5 Riverside Commissioner, moderated the conversation with Chuck Washington – Third District Supervisor and First 5 Riverside Commissioner, Margot Grant Gould – Policy Director for the First 5 Association of California, Sharon Baskett – Assistant Superintendent, Riverside County Office of Education Division of Early Childhood Education Services, and Tim Ritter – Superintendent of Temecula Valley Unified School District.


Just how important is are quality early learning experiences? Well, if we change the first five years, we can change everything!

Check out what these five numbers have to do with early childhood development. Early learning partners throughout California are aligning and discussing solutions, including how rating and improvement systems fit in. Locally, Quality Start – Riverside County is emerging to increase quality in child care centers, homes, preschools and other early learning environments.

To increase our impact on Riverside County’s youngest children, stakeholders are invited to pledge to become champions for children, stay updated and get involved.

BOYGRAD cropped


THE FIRST 5 YEARS: Local Early Learning Advocacy & Education

Over the next five years, the Riverside County Children & Families Commission (First 5 Riverside) will invest more than $69 million  to narrow a critical gap in quality early learning programs for Riverside County children through age 5. The Commission is also working closely with countywide agencies to create an early learning master plan, a quality rating and improvement system and a parent education campaign. These efforts align with current quality-focused state and national movements.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life – the most critical developmental period – is key to their success and education for the rest their life,” says Tammi Graham, First 5 Riverside’s executive director. “In these early years, research shows that children who participate in high-quality early care and preschool programs have better health, social-emotional and cognitive outcomes than those who don’t.”


One-on-one attention, skilled teachers, age appropriate learning toys and lessons, responsive interactions and rich conversations – all contribute to the “quality” of a child’s early learning experience.

An aspect of quality can also be the teachers and what they can bring to the center or activity, says Toni Rangel, program director for Riverside City College’s Child Development Center.

child playing with shape sorterFirst 5 Riverside funds early learning and care scholarships, professional development and support, as well as materials to increase quality and access throughout Riverside County.

Without such support through the Martha’s Village & Kitchen Child Development Program, more than 100 children would fall through the gaps. Rosa E. Torres, program manager, says families that attend the Indio center face a variety of challenges. They are the homeless, families in transitional programs, teen parents, grandparents raising grandchildren and families facing crisis such as domestic violence or unemployment.

 “These families have been through a lot, some even faced with paying for child care or rent or food,” Torres said. “Here, we provide structure and help rebuild that important family bond lost because of their circumstances.”

Adeline Munoz says First 5 Riverside support has helped her become a working mother. Jessica Castrejon, who recently found herself homeless with five children, said she is grateful for the roof over her head and child care so she can work on getting things done for her family. Meanwhile Leticia Gomez is thrilled that her 4-year-old is learning language, communicating successfully in both English and Spanish when a few years ago, he only knew Spanish.


English/Spanish Checklists: What to look for when searching for quality early learning/child care – http://bit.ly/F5RCCLISTS

Riverside County Office of Education Resource & Referral: Call 800-442-4927 or visit – https://rcoecsis.rcoe.k12.ca.us/onlineref2/ for referrals to licensed quality child care in Riverside County based on your needs.

Quality Start – RivCo: Learn more about professional development, coaching, incentives and more to help raise quality in early learning throughout Riverside County.

Strengthening Families, Changing Lives

More than 40 programs throughout Riverside County are funded through First 5 Riverside grants to increase quality early learning, improve child health and strengthen families.

El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center provides home visits to Riverside County families with children challenged by poverty, isolation, language and literacy barriers to promote social-emotional and language development. Last fiscal year, Promotoras, or home visitors, worked with 525 children and 510 parents through this program.

Here is the experience from a Promotora:

I wanted to share an incredible experience “Families Learning Together” staff had recently.

I got a call from a Jurupa Valley Unified School District kindergarten teacher. She was interested in learning more about our program and how she can get more of the families in her district involved in participating.

elsolsepia2This longtime teacher was shocked by the level of both academic knowledge and social-emotional readiness one of her students possessed. She explained that this child was “even more prepared both intellectually and emotionally for kindergarten” than some of her students who went to preschool.

She explained that the child’s parent was also the first parent in line to sign up as a parent volunteer in her classroom. This parent also expressed an interest in participating in the school’s Parent Teacher Association and District English Learner Advisory Committee programs.

Impressed by this special family, the teacher asked the parent how she prepared her child for kindergarten. The parent explained that she and her child participated in two cycles of “Families Learning Together” Home visitation program (HIPPY curriculum) offered by El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center. 

The parent was eager to share all that she had learned. She told the teacher all about her weekly home visits designed to empower the parent to be their child’s first and most important teacher. She told her all about the family group meetings she attended while enrolled in the program.

After speaking with this teacher, had the opportunity to present our program at a parent meeting, although I was hesitant due to our limited staff in that area and our ever growing wait-list.

elsolsepiaThe most beautiful part about this experience was that I got to witness the overwhelming impact our program has had not only on the child, but on the parent. I stayed for the duration of the meeting, where topics were discussed and parents had many questions. My heart was filled when our parent was often the first to stand up and give advice and offer solutions to other parents. Our HIPPY parent was transformed?! Not only is she a busy house wife and loving mother, but also, she is a leader, she has a voice, she loves her community and has the confidence to stand up and make a difference, not just with her family but with all she comes into contact.

The result of this presentation is of course, an even larger waiting list, but also a partnership with a local school district.

I feel so honored to work in a program that changes lives and strengthens families and communities.

Amelia Zepeda-El Sol Promotora (September 2015)

El Sol 3