Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI)

At a Glance

A recipient of the 2006-2007 J. Russell Kent Award, ECLDI was established in 2003 to enhance the academic performance skills of English Language Learner (ELL) students by narrowing the readiness gap for young dual language learners. The Institute’s mission is to prepare children with home languages other than English to be eager and ready to learn in school and throughout life. "The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit." - Wade Davis

Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI)
Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI)
Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI)

Is it true that home language interferes with children's ability to learn English?

Not true! The human brain has extensive capacity to learn multiple languages. Furthermore, a strong foundation in the home language positively impacts the learning of a second language.

Is it true that if a child learning a second language demonstrates signs of language delay, dropping the home language will resolve the issue?

Not true! Language delays in bilingual children typically show up in both their languages.

The above are examples of common myths that have been associated with the process of second language acquisition. The ECLDI trainings address these and other myths and provide the corresponding research findings in order to pave the road for supporting young dual language learners in growing up bilingually.


The Early Childhood Language Development Institute (ECLDI), a recipient of the 2006-2007 J. Russell Kent Award, was established in 2003. The Institute’s vision is to enhance the academic performance skills of English Learner (EL) students in the public school system by narrowing the readiness gap for young Dual Language Learners (DLLs).  This vision is based on the premise that a child’s home language and culture is very closely tied to her identity and self-esteem, which are critical  elements that ultimately influence children’s learning experiences in school and throughout life. Furthermore, research has consistently demonstrated that a strong foundation in the home language contributes to learning a second language more successfully.

ECLDI creatively addresses the readiness gap for young DLL children by providing trainings and educational resources for early childhood educators and families.

What We've Learned From Research

While children are born with the ability to develop language, the environment also plays a critical role in language and literacy development.  Research on the process of learning a second language illustrates how educators can support children in learning a new language without risking the loss of their home language.  Below are research highlights that are reflected in the ECLDI curriculum.

Home Language, Culture, and Identity

  • Preserving children's home languages supports their lasting connection with their families and culture, contributing to a healthy sense of identity.
  • A robust sense of identity is essential for positive self-esteem, an element that significantly influences children's learning experiences and their future academic success.
  • Culturally relevant learning experiences open up children's affective filters by increasing feelings of security and competence that, in turn, make learning a new language much easier.

Second Language Acquisition

  • A strong foundation in the home language positively impacts the learning of a second language.
  • Young children have the brain capacity and the neural flexibility for learning two or more languages without getting confused.
  • Code switching is a common communication strategy and a normal part of multilingual language development.

Home-School Partnerships

  • Culturally relevant learning environments and experiences support young children in bridging home and school by acknowledging the key role a child's language and culture play in her identity, social-emotional, and cognitive development.

"When families' funds of knowledge are recognized and drawn into the preschool setting, these family resources come alive to support children's literacy learning and create positive emotional conditions that also contribute to learning." -T. A. Roberts, 2009

Applying What We've Learned

Despite increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in our communities, our education system and workforce is under-prepared to serve dual language learners (DLLs), resulting in inequitable educational experiences for children. In early childhood education, this can contribute towards a readiness gap at kindergarten entry.  This gap widens as children grow, yielding vastly different life and learning outcomes for DLL students.

In response to this challenge, San Mateo County's ECLDI provides professional development services for early learning educators and families to promote early learning experiences that lay the foundation for DLL's academic and life success.  Our definition of success envisions an early education system that is culturally and linguistically responsive to children and families from diverse backgrounds at all levels of the service delivery model.

ECLDI Overarching Principles:

  • Preserving and encouraging children's home languages and cultures
  • Developing teaching and learning supports for dual language learning
  • Fostering culturally and linguistically relevant early learning experiences, practices and policies
  • Cultivating meaningful connections with families of DLLs

Training and Professional Development

The ECLDI model works well when family and educator workshops take place either at the same time or start with the educator training series first to ensure alignment.  Trainings are offered free of charge and are available at program sites.  Family workshops are also available in Spanish and key resources have been translated in multiple languages including Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.

Workshops for Early Learning Educators

"Parents feel important when a non-native speaker like myself speaks their language - even if it's just one simple word like a greeting or thank you.  It helps us get closer." -Teacher participant at ECLDI training, San Mateo County

A tiered training series supports educators to develop their skills in meaningful family engagement and effective DLL classroom and program-wide strategies.

Two 4-hour Family Engagement Series

  • Exploring impact of culture on our work with children and families
  • Cultivating strong connections with diverse families

Four 4-hour DLL Series

  • Discover me through my family
  • Embrace my family language
  • Support my dual language learning:  part 1
  • Support my dual language learning:  part 2

The ECLDI curriculum deepens teachers' understanding of the relationships among home language and culture, the development of identity and self-esteem, early learning experiences, and second language acquisition. As a result, through our workshops early childhood educators develop the skills to provide culturally meaningful language and literacy experiences for all children.  The training series for early childhood educators Include:

Workshops for Families

child and adult enjoying book"It's important for me to teach my children Spanish for communication and closeness.  If they lose Spanish, I lose them." -Parent participant at ECLDI training, San Mateo County

"Family Stories & Languages" is a 3-part workshop series for families of young dual language learners. Participants explore the link between strong roots in family language and culture and the development of a child's identity and dual language learning. Other topics include how to deepen family-teacher connections with the goal of supporting engaging school experiences for all children.

Three 2-hour Family Workshop Series

  • Discover my family treasures
  • Embracing my family language
  • Supporting my child's dual language learning

Systems Change Strategies

Family Engagement Self-reflection Tools

ECLDI-developed Resources that support early learning teachers and administrators to identify improvement areas and develop action plans to accomplish goals.

Family Cafe Implementation Network

A county-wide professional learning community that provides technical assistance for programs implementing Family Cafes, which aim to support family leadership skills and enhance school-family connections.

Friday C.A.F.E.

Monthly gatherings of family engagement professionals that support networking, spark creative thinking and provide a restorative experience for those who are engaged in services for families in San Mateo County.