Every child deserves to thrive.

The early years are a sacred time—one that should be shaped by joyful experiences, deep connections to community and culture, and rich opportunities for learning. During this vital and fleeting moment, each child’s family and community forms a vital ecosystem that provides the many settings, relationships, and resources that nurture their development.

No one knows better about what young children need to thrive than those who care for children every day.

It is the role and right of families to make choices about the settings, relationships, and resources that are best for their young children. It is the role and right of the dedicated professionals who devote themselves to teaching and caring for young children to do this work with dignity and in partnership with families.

And yet, when it comes to building early childhood care and education (ECE) programs and systems, families, communities, and ECE teachers have been largely left out of the conversation. 

This is particularly true for the many Black, Indigenous, Latine and other people of color who represent the ECE community as families, ECE teachers, and other community members.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The inequities that exist in ECE are not inevitabilities. They are the result of choices: policies, practices, design, and “ways of being” that have centered the characteristics, needs and interests of the dominant culture—that is, White, English-speaking, and economically privileged families.

We can find hope in the swell of voices rising from families, ECE practitioners, and communities.

As communities continue to build power and lead the way in calling for change, there has been a growing commitment among ECE leaders and decision-makers to listen, learn, and be transformed. The development of this playbook stands as an example of the commitment and an invitation for ECE leaders at the national, state, and local levels to join communities and one another in the work of transformation.


This resource was developed by School Readiness Consulting and made possible by many key partners. We would like to thank the storytellers – the families, community members, and ECE partners – who shared their stories and experiences with us as part of this effort. Their perspectives guided the content of this playbook, and offer systems leaders and decision-makers an invaluable tool in their work to reimagine the ECE system side-by-side with families and communities. This work was also guided by an Advisory Table. We appreciate the commitment and thought partnership of the Advisory Table members who shaped the vision and for this playbook and its contents. We appreciate parthering organizations in Philadelphia, PA (First Up); Charlotte, NC (Charlotte Bilingual Preschool); and Alexandria, VA (St. James Early Learning Center, The Campagna Center) who provided the backdrop for the creative components of this playbook. Your graciousness and hospitality made this playbook come to life.


We particularly want to thank our partners at the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™ who provided the funding and vision to make this playbook possible, as well as Living Cities for serving as the fiscal sponsor for this process.

The creative components of this playbook and website were made possible by the following partners:

Design & Web Development

Sabra Creative

Production & Videography

Ralston Smith, Will Vargas, and Cynarra Tweed


Anne Healey and Cathy Cambron, Editcetera

Learn More

Want to learn about the partner involved in these efforts? Click on the logo below to learn more. 

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