Early Steps to School Success™ (Early Steps) is based on the premise that the five years before a child enters the formal education system is an important window of learning and enrichment. However, low-income families, particularly those who live in resource-poor rural areas, often lack the resources and support needed to promote their children’s early learning. Consequently, children experiencing poverty may find themselves behind their peers developmentally when they enter school.
The model aims to address this challenge by offering the following activities to low-income families with children from birth until the child’s fifth birthday:
- Home visits for children from birth until the child’s third birthday;
- Parent support groups held at a local school that include activities such as toddler storybook hours, parenting education groups, and family nights;
- Referrals to enter center-based early childhood programs upon the child’s third birthday;
- A book bag exchange to supply families with children’s books until kindergarten entry; and
- Transition to preschool and kindergarten support, including developing individualized transition plans and providing transition activities such as visiting the classroom and meeting the teachers; home visits by the kindergarten teacher; a summer preparation program in the months before kindergarten; and workshops for building relationships between parents and schools.
Early Steps is typically implemented by local school districts. The model’s connection to the school system is designed to facilitate home-school collaboration and engagement from the time a child is born. Connection to the broader community is also key to Early Steps implementation. Early Steps programs strive to foster communities' engagement and early childhood knowledge to support families with young children and to connect families to local services. To that end, the local Early Steps program hosts community events such as literacy fairs and story walks, and activities with local law enforcement and other public groups.
The HomVEE review focuses on the home visiting component of the model (Early Steps-Home Visiting), including other activities facilitated by the home visitor, such as toddler storybook hours, parenting education groups, and family nights.