About United Way Born Learning

School readiness is a significant and growing topic. Whether the focus is on achievement gaps, vulnerable children or graduation rates, the underlying factor is that many of our children are not prepared for school and we need to do more to help them be successful. As Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, puts it, “There is an unacceptably wide gap between what we know and what we do to promote healthy childhood development.” 

While there is an abundance of child development information available, it can overwhelm parents, caregivers and community leaders. In response, United Way Worldwide, United Way Success By 6, Families and Work Institute and the Ad Council launched the Born Learning campaign in 2005. It puts easy-to-understand, research-driven resources into the hands of families, caregivers, community leaders and policymakers, including:

  • Educational materials and products that make it simple and easy for parents, grandparents, informal caregivers and professional child care providers to understand child development and use “everyday moments” to help children start school ready to succeed.
  • Public awareness and mobilization strategies and tools that support and accelerate a community’s early learning goals.

Most early childhood initiatives target either parents or policymakers. Born Learning equips communities to do both. Resources for families and caregivers provide easy to understand and use information and activities to promote early development , while public awareness tools and templates support outreach to opinion leaders and policymakers.

United Way Worldwide and the Ad Council conducted extensive public opinion research in to test the “everyday moments” concept. That research included 16 focus groups across the country, with working and stay-at-home moms of various incomes, dads, grandmothers and Hispanic moms and grandmothers. Participants knew their interactions with the children they cared for mattered, but didn’t always know exactly what to do – and said they didn’t have time to do what it takes to support early learning. The last thing they needed was more pressure! But the concepts – like playing silly games with a baby while folding laundry – encouraged them, gave them confidence, and even provided ideas to try out with their family. They understood the concept that supporting early learning can be a fun and loving interaction that can be undertaken in the context of everyday life.

The educational material also underwent rigorous consumer and market testing during development. In focus groups, parents and caregivers spelled out what they needed help with, and what kind of products they’d be most likely to use. Early childhood professionals weighed in as well, and the content of the material was approved by a national panel of early childhood development experts.

Born Learning looks different in every community, depending on local needs, focus and capacity. Many are connecting parents and caregivers with local resources, programs and supports. Others are working with hospitals, pediatricians and human service agencies to include Born Learning educational material in partners’ activities. And some are using Born Learning tools and templates to “prime the pump” for lasting community change to support young children and their families.

Whatever you’re doing – or want to do – for young children in your community, Born Learning has a tool to support you. It’s the go-to place for all tools, materials, templates and ideas designed to help you carry out Born Learning successfully in your community.

Questions? Please email contact.bornlearning@unitedway.org.