Editor’s note: The following Q&A is part of Xpress‘ annual Kids Issues.
Millad Nooraei, YWCA director of early childhood education, discusses his organization’s history, the challenges it faces and ways parents can be involved in their child’s development.
What are some of your program’s key focus areas when it comes to early childhood education?
The YWCA’s Early Learning Program is part of a 116-year-old organization whose mission is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The program prioritizes quality care and education, partnerships with other equity-minded organizations and a focus on building a trauma-informed community of care. We use an anti-bias curriculum, and the staff is trained in racial justice, bystander intervention and deescalation.
What advice would you offer new parents as it relates to your field?
There are few things as valuable for young children’s learning as fostering curiosity and love of learning. This can happen organically in the home with a nurturing environment that sets aside quality time for playing and reading and that includes children in everyday tasks. If caretakers make learning fun and engaging, they can help lay the foundation for lifelong learning.
What’s the greatest challenge your organization faces as it relates to the work you provide to area youths?
The biggest challenge facing the Early Learning Program and other child care providers in the U.S. is instability caused by a lack of public investment. Providers face a labor shortage, rising costs, growing demand and funding cuts. In Asheville, the high cost of living and housing make it hard to attract and retain early childhood educators, leaving providers unable to meet the needs of the community without more funding.
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