“Research in the field of early childhood education strongly proves that regular attendance at kindergarten has a positive impact on child development. Between the ages of 3 and 7, children are also at a key period in their growth, where they not only develop their cognitive skills, but also learn and practice flexibility, self-control, emotion management, interaction with others – this is a ‘critical window’ that provides an opportunity for psychological and social development.
Without it being fully utilized, children grow up without the skills necessary for communication, teamwork, problem solving, and getting along with other people on whom they can rely for the rest of their lives. Spending more time in kindergarten contributes to doing better in school. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), children who have been in kindergarten for more than two years acquire the necessary skills and perform better than children who are not in compulsory pre-school education.

Early inclusion in education and care services in turn has proven potential to help address some significant inequalities.This is particularly important for children from disadvantaged communities. For example, according to a nationally representative survey of Roma communities in Bulgaria in 2019, conducted by Global metrics and commissioned by the Trust for Social Achievement, attending kindergarten increases the chances of completing higher education by around 35%. Moreover, employment rates among people of Roma ethnic origin who attended kindergarten were 40% higher and their earnings were 30% higher than those of people who did not attend kindergarten.

In our country, many families from underprivileged communities still find it difficult to ensure regular attendance of their children in kindergarten. Families often lack information about the importance of attending kindergarten and how regular attendance contributes to better socialisation and the development of important skills in children, such as early language skills in Bulgarian. Lack of experience in communicating with professionals and educators creates anxiety in parents and caregivers and can be a cause of difficulty in interacting with the kindergarten and building a trusting relationship between parents and teachers/caregivers. In some cases, the remoteness of the kindergarten or poor infrastructure and lack of convenient transport links also create additional challenges to regular attendance – it requires significant parental effort to bring children to kindergarten regularly, and this means that motivation and awareness of the importance of early learning is particularly strong.

Children from underprivileged communities are also more likely to suffer from malnutrition and chronic conditions, which also lead to more absenteeism from kindergarten, which in turn heightens parents’ concerns and reduces attendance.
Children for whom Bulgarian is not their mother tongue have the greatest need for an early start, but often have the least time for language adaptation and socialisation in kindergarten. From this point of view, regularity in kindergarten attendance is key to compensating for
these baseline inequalities. The difficult socio-economic situation in the country as a result of the Covid pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis is expected to have a significant and long-term impact, deepening poverty and existing inequalities. In this particularly risky environment for the most vulnerable children, it becomes especially important that there is trusting and effective interaction between family, community and kindergarten so that children can receive the support they need at this important stage in their development.

The activities, materials and ideas gathered in this handbook have been developed by the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation to help increase the understanding of parents from underprivileged communities, with a focus on Roma, of the importance of early childhood in the formation of important skills, attitudes and interests of the child, as well as the important role of the kindergarten as a place for early learning and development of children’s language and socio-emotional skills, and to facilitate the strengthening of trust between the family and the kindergarten.

The ultimate aim of the set of activities, information materials and approaches to the sessions is to encourage regular attendance at kindergarten. The sessions are themed to cover the key issues and concerns of parents and families:
Kindergarten – Children’s First Community. The kindergarten daily routine. Children’s habits and routines, and the benefits of regular attendance.

The process of socialisation in kindergarten – benefits. Risks of irregular attendance.
The educational role of the kindergarten. Examples of early learning activities implemented in kindergarten. Benefits for children, skills learned through these activities. Educational materials and tools in the kindergarten. How can we support children at home? Materials for play and early learning at home.
The kindergarten – a place for learning through creativity. Sample creative activities implemented in the kindergarten. Benefits for children, skills learnt through these activities.
Sanitary conditions and benefits of child health care in kindergarten. The kindergarten as a safe place. Healthy eating in the kindergarten.
The family-kindergarten relationship. How to maintain effective communication with teachers and caregivers. What questions to ask teachers/caregivers about their child? How we can participate as parents in the life of the kindergarten.

The content of the information sessions has been developed and complemented by the Trust for Social Achievement Foundation in the framework of various initiatives since 2014, and in 2022-2023 the sessions have been successfully piloted by numerous civil society organizations – partners of the Trust in
across the country. Feedback results from parents who have participated in the sessions indicate high satisfaction and personal perceptions of increased knowledge of the importance of regular nursery attendance. The interactive nature of the info sessions was highly valued by parents as well as nursery and community representatives.”

From:HANDBOOK FOR CONDUCTING INFORMATION SESSIONS FOR PARENTS – the handbook in Bulgarian can be downloaded from this link.

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