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The Little Village Brings Language Justice into the Classroom

For the founder of The Little Village,  Rebecca Gartner, making her on-site early learning center at The Village Institute an inclusive multilingual space is not a luxury–it is a necessity. Thanks to a mini grant from Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) to support early childhood organizations in increasing the quality of their communications efforts she was able to make progress. 

The Village Institute has supported single mother refugee families in Aurora since 2019, and, as explained on their website, its priority is to “ensure refugee and immigrant women and families are at the forefront of [the] program design, decision-making, and leadership.” One way that Gartner does this in her work is by incorporating dual-language development into a multicultural curriculum. 

“My First Words” is one of nearly 40 children’s books purchased in multiple languages.

From the time she submitted the grant application, Gartner knew that her focus needed to be on language justice. Just Communities describes language justice as creating situations in which “all languages are valued equally and speakers of different languages benefit from listening to and sharing with one another.”

Gartner used mini grant funds to work toward language justice in her early learning center. She purchased books in 27 languages for her toddler and preschool classrooms and bought multicultural toys and decorations that represent different countries, cultures, ethnicities and abilities. Children see themselves represented in their classrooms and teachers now have the tools they need to promote dual language development. “You don’t need a diverse group of children to have a diversely represented classroom. It’s so important for children to see these other races represented in their toys, to see other languages represented in their books,” Gartner said. 

Language Justice Outside the Classroom

Beyond incorporating multilingual books and multicultural toys and decorations in her classrooms, Gartner also translated enrollment forms and other notifications, like school closure notifications, into 10 other languages, which is a foundational way to improve communication with parents and caregivers. 

In the Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado report, which was endorsed by the ECLC, all three recommended strategies (noise reduction, quality and engagement) depend on being able to communicate with families in a language that they understand. By translating her enrollment forms, Gartner is enabling future refugee families who speak languages like Arabic, Farsi and Swahili to understand that there is a place for their child in her classroom. And once the child comes into her classroom, she has books and toys that will remind them of that fact each and every day.

Below is a list of books The Little Village has filled their classroom with: 

Alicia’s Happy Day (Span/Eng PB)
Animal ABC: Bilingue/Bilingual (PB)
Babies, Babies (Spanish/English)
Backpack Baby (Span/Eng)
Beach Socks (Spanish/English)
BW Opposites (Span/Eng) New
The Cats of Mrs. Calamari (Spanish/English)
Clean Up, Up, Up (Spanish/English)
Fish to Feed, A (Spanish/English)
Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Brd)
Humbug Witch (Spanish/English)
In The Dark Cave (Spanish/English)
Jacob’s Little Sister (Spanish/English)
Loving Me (Spanish/English)
My Big Brother (Span/Eng PB)
My First Words Outside (Span/Eng)
Piggy in My Pocket (Span/Eng)
Rosa’s Very Big Job (Spanish/English)
Show Me How To Be A Friend (Spanish/English)
Show Me How To Use The Potty (Spanish/English)
Show Me How to Visit the Doctor (Spanish/English)
Show Me How You Feel (Spanish/English)
BW Animals to Count (Amharic/English)
Carry Me (Amharic/English)
Hip, Hop (Amharic/English)
Where’s the Baby (Amharic/English)
Are You My Baby? (Arabic/English)
Eating the Rainbow (Arabic/English)
My Face Book (Arabic/English)
My First Words at Home (Arabic/English)
What’s in My Garden? (Arabic/English)
When Someone is Afraid (Arabic/English)
Who Lives Here? Pets (Arabic/English)
Animal Colors (Bengali/English)
My Face Book (Bengali/Eng)
OSC 1 0 Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Burmese/English)
My Face Book (Burmese/English)
My First Words at Home (Burmese/English)

ECLC Communications Mini Grant

The Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC), in collaboration with members of the ECLC Communications Subcommittee, developed Communications Guidelines for Engaging Parents & Caregivers to support early childhood professionals who are creating communications efforts such as mass messaging campaigns, marketing campaigns, or targeted service awareness that is directed toward parents and caregivers. ECLC and Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate) are excited to offer a unique mini grant opportunity up to $1,500 to improve local engagement efforts using these guidelines.

Grantees will also have access to optional pro bono strategic communications support from Illuminate &/or a mentor through the Strengthening Communication Network (SCN). The SCN is a volunteer-led network of mentors with expertise in public relations and communications specific to the issues faced by organizations working to ensure that all children and families in Colorado are valued, healthy and thriving. Illuminate and other mentors within the Strengthening Communications Network will help you tackle challenges on a variety of topics including framing messaging, developing a communications plan, planning and sharing content, social media, email marketing, media coverage, and other communications needs. 

Examples of organizations considered for funding:

  • Community-based nonprofits
  • Community-based coalitions
  • Early childhood councils
  • Family resource centers
  • Local institutions who are viewed by community as trusted partners
  • Public libraries
  • Family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care providers
  • Licenced Child Care Providers 

Our hope is that this mini grant will offer you or your organization added capacity to increase the quality of communication, including the use of effective content, enhanced communication training for trusted messengers that connect with parents and caregivers, and a heightened focus on effective tactics. This mini grant may even provide a little bit of extra support to create a greater emphasis on the two-way, responsive engagement of parents and caregivers that will generate more positive outcomes for children’s cognitive and social development.

Grant Applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on September 17, 2021. 


The announcement of this mini grant opportunity was a focus of this month’s Strengthening Communications Network meeting. Watch the recorded portion of the meeting.

DOWNLOAD ECLC Communications Mini Grant Overview for more information including:

  • budget format,
  • questions on the electronic application, 
  • review and score the applications submitted by the grant criteria and  learn much more about this exciting opportunity! 

The Partnership is blogging!

The Early Childhood Colorado Partnership works to bring together diverse voices in Colorado’s early childhood landscape. This new blog feature will serve as a platform to dive deep into our efforts and focus areas, including highlighting partner voices. Each month will include blog posts on a specific topic, starting with the Shared Message bank in October. Keep an eye out for a post by Stephanie Monahan from The Civic Canopy on Monday, October 31st.

If you want to share your story or know someone who should share their story via our blog, email

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