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NAEYC recognizes Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith for exemplary, engaging programming

NORTHAMPTON Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith has been identified as an Engaging Diverse Families exemplary program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) the nation's leading organization of early childhood professionals. Sunnyside is one of only 10 programs nationwide to receive this honor. The goal of the Engaging Diverse Families project is to learn how excellent early childhood education programs are effectively engaging diverse families and to share what is learned with other programs struggling to start and sustain family engagement practices. Family engagement occurs when there is an ongoing, reciprocal, strengths-based partnership between families and their children's early childhood education programs. NAEYC looked for evidence of shared decision-making related to their children's education; consistent, two-way commun-ication; integration of families' lives and communities into all aspects of the program; and program policies and professional development that support effective family engagement, such as ongoing training in communication skills and cultural competence. "We're thrilled to have earned this designation from NAEYC and to be recognized for our commitment to supporting and engaging diverse families," Susan Beemer, director of Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith, said. "This exemplary status reaffirms to families in our community that we are committed to fully engaging them in their children's learning experiences, which is so critical in the early years." In operation since 1975, Sunnyside is one of the area's longest running early childhood centers, offering care for children aged 18 months to six years. Sunnyside Child Care Center is an independent, non-profit parent cooperative located on the Smith College campus. Sunnyside's mission is "to provide an early care and education program of the highest quality. We strive to create a flexible program which respects and values individual differences in families, children, and staff; is supportive of parents; and fosters the highest degree of well-being in each child." Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith will be recognized at next month at the 19th National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in Phoenix, Ariz. To be recognized as exemplary, Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith participated in an extensive process examining our research-based family engagement practices. Sunnyside submitted a written application and program materials, participated in a phone interview, provided parent and family testimony and received an on-site visit by NAEYC staff to provide a body of evidence showing they are effectively reaching out to and including the diverse families they serve. A growing body of research suggests that meaningful engagement of families in their children's early learning supports school readiness and later academic success. For many families, engagement in early learning is linked to their children's participation in early childhood education programs. Sunnyside Child Care Center at Smith is also NAEYC-accredited. In the 25 years since NAEYC accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. For more about Engaging Diverse Families, visit www.naeyc.org/ecp/trainings/edf.

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