Education Blog

Ways to foster emotional literacy in young children

Two young girls with school backpacks look at each other as they walk ahead of a group of classmates


Numerous research studies, including the 2014 Head Start CARES Demonstration: National Evaluation of Three Approaches to Improving Preschoolers’ Social and Emotional Competence, continue to show how improving social and emotional skills can help preschoolers spend more time engaged in learning. This research—commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—was the first large-scale nationally randomized study, and it’s led to development of a more intentional approach to promoting social and emotional development for parents and teachers.

The idea is that the ability to apply yourself to a task, screen out distractions and believe in the possibility of your own improvement is a bigger determinant of success than reading and math skills. Related studies also have found that enhancing these abilities may help counter the emotional difficulties that interfere with cognitive development in low-income students. And those learning and study habits tend to remain with individuals throughout their lives.

These outcomes are driving the work of Champaign-Urbana Cradle 2 Career (CUC2C) in adopting a comprehensive approach to early childhood socio-emotional wellness. That’s why the group’s Kindergarten Readiness Goal team is proposing to launch Ready, Set, Grow this summer—comprised of a community awareness campaign; a Quality Early Learning experience for 3-5 year-olds (and their parents) on school district/Head Start wait-lists and in targeted neighborhoods; and coordinated “child find” activities to maximize early detection screening. The first two are totally new strategies to this area while the third builds on existing agency work through increased, integrated collaboration. WILL Education is working with CUC2C on this effort and will report on findings after the pilot project.

In the meantime, our public media partner, KQED, shares tips and information about the benefits of helping preschoolers understand and discuss their emotions in its MindShift blog.