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Five Tips for Reporting on Infants and Toddlers

August 3, 2018
Lillian Mongeau
Education Writers Association

If you think about education reporting as covering schools and the people who attend them, you might be scratching your head as to why infants and toddlers are newsworthy subjects. But if education reporting is really about covering learning, then children under age 4 are some of the best subjects you could imagine.

I found that out firsthand last year when I worked with journalist Sarah Carr, her team of reporters from the Teacher Project, and the good folks at Slate Magazine to produce a series of nine stories and an insanely adorable video about 2-year-olds.

Here’s how I summarized the major leaps that happen the year a child is 2 in my piece about their cognitive development.

The speed of learning during each year that brings a child from his first cry to his first day of preschool is similarly rapid. And yet, U.S. families typically get very little government support for the care and development of these littlest learners.

Nearly two-thirds of 2-year-olds have working mothers, usually a sign that families are looking for outside care. Meanwhile, the federal government provides enough funding to help about 6 percent of 2-year-olds. Roughly the same percentages apply to infants and 1-year-olds. Three-year-olds have better access to public programs, but not by much.

Here’s how I summarized it in my big picture story

Convinced that the early years deserve more attention from education reporters? Then read on for five tips on how to best cover this age group. I’ve included my own thoughts and pulled from the ideas shared by Sarah Carr and Zoe Kirsch during our panel discussion about covering this age group at EWA’s 2018 National Seminar in Los Angeles.

…There is a massive gap between the number of infants and toddlers in need of high-quality care outside of the home and the number who are receiving it.

And the United States is way behind other countries in addressing this problem. Many other countries with modern economies, like France, are working hard on this problem while policymakers in the U.S. are still figuring out if it’s worth our while to provide free school for 4-year-olds.