Big Dreams for NY’s Youngest Children: The future of early care and education 6/17/14

I wanted to let you know about a panel I will be speaking on next Tuesday morning at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School.  Here is the link to the panel which is coinciding with the release of a report focusing on policy and early care and education in NYC. I am happy that this report will shed some light on issues faced by those who often have the least access to power and support.  Programs that serve low income children and families in NYC are struggling in many ways and it’s important that people know what’s going on for children and for the women of color who work with them (majority of childcare workers are low income and women of color). We need to make some changes and my hope is that the release of this report and the words of the panelists will signal the beginning of that change.


See you there!


Universal Preschool in Sweden: Inspiration for Progressive Early Childhood Education

I’m delighted to be a respondent on this upcoming panel at Brooklyn College looking at Universal Preschool in Sweden as inspiration for progressive early childhood education here in the US.  I will be bringing the perspective of someone who supports teachers to do progressive education with low income children of color. Please share the flier far and wide and I hope to see you there.

The Brooklyn College Department of Early Childhood and Art Education and the Brooklyn College School of Education are delighted to invite you to an upcoming event on the Brooklyn College campus.  We will hold a presentation and discussion titled Universal Preschool in Sweden: Inspiration for Progressive Early Childhood Education at 6 PM on May 5, 2014.  We hope that you will attend and that you will also invite your students, alumni, and interested colleagues — professors, teachers, parents and politicians —  from around New York City.

Sweden is internationally lauded for its public, comprehensive, accessible and affordable Educare system, which provides all Swedish young children with some of the very best care and education.  Monica Nilsson, our speaker, is a well-known professor of education who has recently been selected to advice the Swedish Educational Agency on the universal early childhood transition class (six year old class) in relation to a proposal for changing the Swedish school start age.  Jeanette Thure, Elin Johansson and Anna-Karin Grandqvist, who will show slides of their work, are master preschool teachers from the internationally recognized HallonEtt Swedish preschool. 

These guests will share with us the Swedish system of education and care for young children.  Respondents representing various stakeholders within our own early childhood education systems will then lead us in reflecting upon the lessons that we can take from universal preschool in Sweden as we move forward with universal prekindergarten in New York City.



Meeting with parents in Brownsville, Brooklyn who are opting out of high stakes testing

On Monday morning 3/24/14, I will be heading to a school in Brownsville, Brooklyn where more than 2/3 of the third grade families have chosen to opt their children out of high stakes testing.

Brownsville is a community with a very high concentration of low income families and many of the local public schools struggle on various ways.

High stakes testing negatively impacts all children, but it most negatively affects children from low income communities. When many children score poorly on these high stakes tests, their school gets put under further scrutiny and the curriculum literally narrows down to ONLY focus on test prep all year round. School admins feel pressure to raise their kids test scores, since their jobs literally depend upon the scores. It’s a vicious cycle.

Parents recognize that they can exercise their rights and say ‘No’ which in turn forces the NYSED and DOE to use alternative measures to assess children and teachers.

If you’d like to come to learn more from me and these parents about why and how to opt out, please email me at the ‘contact me’ link to the right.

Preschool diversity conference

I am honored to be a presenter at Maple Street School’s first diversity conference next month!

My son attended Maple Street for his first three years of formal schooling and it has helped to shape his identity and attitude towards life and learning. I am proud of Maple Street for launching this conference but I am in no way surprised. Maple Street is a place where children are encouraged to be themselves- whatever that looks like at any given moment.

Would love to see you there!

Playing in the projects- preschool for low income children

If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the organization I am the curriculum director for, join me and two of our teachers on Wednesday at The College of New Jersey

We will be sharing information about the organization, Brooklyn Kindergarten Society and the joys and challenges of teaching children in low income communities in Brooklyn, NY.

See you there!

Book Review: Praise for Ring the Alarm by Nikolai Pizarro

Finally! For years, academics and researchers, educators and policymakers have failed to bridge the gap between theory and practice when it comes to explaining the relationship between brain development and parenting practices to people who are actually parenting. For those who have managed to communicate this information outside of their own circles, the information has never been geared specifically towards low-income Black and Latino caregivers.

Ring the Alarm: A Parenting Guide for Low-income Black and Latino Caregivers is the long-awaited missing link.

Nikolai Pizarro takes complex information about brain development and explains it in clear, understandable language. It walks parents (who do not possess a degree in child development or early childhood education) through a “crash course” in brain research and then, more importantly, explains how it all relates to each and every decision they will make as parents, starting with pregnancy.

Ring the Alarm explores brain research and parenting practices in a culturally relevant context by acknowledging the history of racism, classism and sexism that has contributed to the reproduction of cycles of pain and oppression in low-income Black and Latino communities. It explores the idea that caregivers are powerful- more powerful than they probably ever realized. This book asks low-income Black and Latino caregivers to reflect on their own lives and upbringings- to look around their communities and question some of the negative things they see.

Why are so many Black and Latino men incarcerated?

Why is the teen pregnancy rate so high?

Why do so many of our children drop out of high school?

There are many complex reasons for these statistics.

Once Pizarro poses these questions and more, she provides facts that help readers make connections between early childhood experiences and later success in life.

But in this book she walks us through very simple “solutions” to what feels like very complex problems. Truthfully, some of the solutions are simple:

Start building complex brain connections and create a language-rich environment when children are born and throughout their first five years.

By doing this, you have begun to eliminate many of the issues that consistently relegate many low-income Black and Latino children to the “deficit” side of conversations about academic achievement and our educational system. The vocabulary gap comes to mind as an example. Research has shown that children in low-income households have 30 million fewer words in their vocabulary than their middle class counterparts. If low-income parents had access to this fact, with ideas about how to address it in their homes, this gap would, no doubt, be smaller.

There is a saying that once you “know better, you do better.” Some have argued that low-income Black and Latino parents make unhealthy choices for their children because they simply don’t know what the latest research says. With this book, it appears that Pizarro is expanding that saying and challenging us: “Once you know better, you deeply understand, and here’s how you can do better. This is what ’better’ looks like. Acknowledge your power.”

Ring the Alarm is an incredibly important gift to caregivers and children who live in and grow up with little to inspire hope for future life success. By reading this book and applying the knowledge directly to their own lives, caregivers can re-connect to their sense of hope and take a first step to ensure that this generation truly begins to break the cycle of poverty.

Recently I had the pleasure of organizing a few book talks with different communities and I was blown away. Teachers, preschool directors, low income parents, middle income parents, administrators from various social service organizations and early childhood education professors were excited to learn about the information in Ring the Alarm, and to think about how it could be applied to their own personal and professional lives.

If you would like to order a copy of Ring the Alarm, you may do so at
For wholesale pricing, and more information about the book and her work, please visit Nikolai’s website