News & Notes:

See our New Campaign: Quality Child Care Matters

QM_News_800x534Kids who attend quality early learning programs do better in life. That’s the message of a new campaign we’re co-sponsoring to educate parents about the importance of selecting quality child care for their children.

The campaign, called Quality Matters, also publicly launches Contra Costa County’s new system to rate and improve the level of quality licensed child care programs provide to young children. First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Child Care Council are sponsoring the campaign.

“The important message to families is that quality matters when they choose a child care setting for their child. Research shows that children in quality child care are more successful academically and in life,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Quality Matters is improving the quality of child care in our county and will provide parents with tools they need to identify quality programs.”

To date, 104 licensed child care programs in Contra Costa County are voluntarily participating in Quality Matters. Providers receive training, coaching, support and incentives to meet or exceed quality standards. Most Quality Matters sites are located in low-income communities or serve children with high needs – the children least likely to receive quality child care. Sixteen counties in California are piloting child care rating and improvement systems using common criteria and standards.

ShoppingCarts-03wThe new campaign features ads in English and Spanish on buses, transit shelters, supermarket carts and online, and promotes the website which includes tips for locating and paying for quality child care and ratings for participating programs. So far, 83% of sites have either met or exceeded quality standards in areas proven to have the greatest impact on children’s learning and development. These include staff education and training, child-teacher interactions, and providing safe and enriching environments and age-appropriate instruction.

“With the majority of a child’s brain developing during the first five years of life, the quality of care a child receives during this time is critical,” said Ruth Fernández, program coordinator of the county’s Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, which is housed at the Contra County Office of Education. “Quality Matters provides a set of standards to define quality for parents and for providers. Over time, and with adequate state funding, it will help guide parents in choosing the best care they can for their children.”

Learn more at To request brochures and posters, contact

What Does Quality Child Care Look Like?

SFP_1538Selecting the right early care and education setting for their family is one of the most challenging and important decisions parents face. What exactly does quality child care look like?

Using the Quality Matters rating criteria and framework, here are the top six things to look for when selecting quality child care for your child:

  • Teacher-Child Interactions: Providers that interact positively with the kids in their care.
  • Ratio and Group Size: Small group sizes and a small number of kids to every adult.
  • Learning Activities: A mix of creative, fun and educational activities that are right for a child’s age and help them learn new skills.
  • Staff: Warm and knowledgeable staff who have a lot of training and rarely quit. Providers have taken classes or earned degrees in Early Childhood Education.
  • Environment: A rich learning environment with varied materials, activities and routines. Areas are healthy, clean and safe.
  • Child Health & Development: Providers make sure children receive health screenings and that children are developing on track.

Other resources are available to help families locate quality child care:

Contact the Contra Costa Child Care Council: (925) 6876-5442
Contra Costa County’s child care resource and referral agency. They offer free child care referrals, online resources and tip sheets to help families find and choose care, financial assistance for low-income working families and more.

Quality Matters Rated Programs:
Find a List of quality-rated child care programs in Contra Costa County

Things to look for when choosing child care:
Infant care
Family child care
Child care Center

Spotlight: At Tandem, Books are Just the Beginning

Tandem_News_800x534Laura Rodriguez, a Community Literacy Specialist for Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, recently visited Stoneman preschool in Pittsburg. She was there to provide a storytelling demonstration for teachers and an engaging early learning experience for the kids.

As she read the Busy Body Book, Laura encouraged the kids to stomp their feet, feel their bones, and talk about their muscles.

“I can carry pillows with my muscles,” one child shared.

“You can! You are very strong,” Laura replied. The demonstration included many open-ended questions, silly sounds, and opportunities for kids to move, act things out, and relate concepts from the story to their lives – all important elements for interactive early learning experiences that spark joy in children.

Formerly called Raising A Reader, San Francisco, Alameda & Contra Costa Counties, Tandem launched its new name and approach in January to more accurately reflect the agency’s mission to close the opportunity gap for children.

As the new name implies, Tandem is all about working together. The goal is to partner with educators, community organizations and parents and surround children with interactive early learning opportunities that build early language and literacy skills, strengthen social and emotional skills, and foster a lifelong love of learning.

First 5 Contra Costa allocated $156,000 to Tandem this year to provide StoryCycles, its new school-to-home book-sharing program. Each week, children take home a green and blue bag filled with high-quality books to share with their families. They return their bag the following week in exchange for a new bag of books and begin the book-sharing cycle again. StoryCycles is now in 175 early learning classrooms and settings in Contra Costa County, primarily in low-income communities.

To make the most of book-sharing experiences and build children’s early literacy skills, every StoryCycles site receives training like the one Laura provided. Tandem also provides community workshops to reach more families beyond those receiving StoryCycles and has launched a new parent engagement program called Literacy Champions, which provides intensive training for parents to conduct early literacy workshops and distribute free books in their communities. Tandem is currently recruiting for Literacy Champions in Richmond – see flyer for details.

At Tandem, the books are just the beginning. By providing high-quality early learning opportunities and building strong family bonds, Tandem aims to break the cycle of poverty and build brighter futures for children.

Learn more at