Two preschool boys reading together.

Early Learning Nation

Helping communities achieve equitable results for children and families

What We Work For

We are working to build a nationwide network of Early Learning Communities where young children and their families get the support they need to thrive.

In many communities in the US, there is weak coordination and few linkages between services that children and their families need. Even when high-quality programs and services are available, families do not have the support or resources to access or make use of them successfully.

Early Learning Nation recognizes the need for building coordinated, supportive systems in the early childhood sphere to ensure that all families get the support they need to promote healthy child development.

How We Do It

We work with communities that are committed to becoming Early Learning Communities (ELCs)—places where young children and their families can access  everything they need to thrive.

We work directly with stakeholders to connect the dots between sectors and create a unified system of support and provide materials and coaching to help them implement innovative strategies related to each of the Building Blocks for ELCs. These Building Blocks aim to expand leaders’ thinking beyond early childhood programs and services to consider neighborhood conditions and the policies that affect families.

We support a network of ELCs that work to achieve equitable results for children and their families, building their strategies according to local needs, resources, and priorities. Our shared focus is always on equity, family partnerships, and improved outcomes for children.

Early Learning Nation

Using the four Building Blocks for ELCs, communities across the country are putting their commitment to early childhood into action and achieving better outcomes for young children and their families.

We think holistically about the environment in which families are raising their children—the community commitment, the services and supports, the neighborhoods, and the policies that affect their lives—to understand how best to ensure that all children get what they need to thrive.

While communities vary greatly by history, culture, demographics, and geography, ELCs stand on four key “building blocks;” that is, community characteristics and actions that promote healthy child development and family well-being:

  • Community leadership, commitment, and public will to make early childhood a priority;
  • Quality services that work for all young children and their families;
  • Neighborhoods where families can thrive; and
  • Policies that support and are responsive to families.

Throughout the journey to becoming an ELC, all stakeholders must consider how to:

  • Advance equity.
  • Promote partnerships with families.
  • Determine whether results are being achieved.

Early Learning Nation Outcomes

Early Learning Communities align their efforts toward three broad sets of results for young children and their families, the kind of results that every parent wants for their child:

  • Pregnant women and young children are healthy.
  • Children are ready to succeed in school.
  • Children live in safe, stable, and nurturing families and communities.

We look forward to sharing results based on these metrics after the initiative has had some time to spread and scale, and we have collected and analyzed sufficient data.

Early Learning Nation Community Action Guide

CSSP and the National League of Cities (NLC) have developed an Early Learning Community Action Guide designed to help communities focus their efforts around four key building blocks.

Build Your Early Learning Community

Becoming an Early Learning Community is an ongoing process, where there are always opportunities to make progress.

Every Early Learning Community is unique. The building blocks describe common elements that are present across all Early Learning Communities but, like the elements of a playground, they can be assembled in many different ways. There is no one design that will fit every community. Each community will choose the actions that fit their community best. However, there are steps your community should take as you begin your journey that will give you a strong foundation and help sustain your efforts into the future. These are the steps to help you get started.

Our Experts

Esther Hernández 23

Esther Hernández

Program Analyst
She, Her, Hers/ They, Them, Theirs
Cailin O'Connor portrait.

Cailin O’Connor

Senior Associate
She, Her, Hers