As NBCDI collaborates with our Affiliates and national partners, we have chosen to focus on the particular strengths and needs of Black children and families in the broader context of a shared goal: ensuring that all children are reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. NBCDI has chosen to adopt this overarching objective in response to data demonstrating both the critical nature of this educational benchmark and the devastating performance of Black children, only 15 percent of whom are reading proficiently in 4th grade. Several of our Affiliate communities have signed onto the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and are doing their part to help children embrace reading and improve their academic performance.   

Love to Read has long been the National Black Child Development Institute's early  literacy public education initiative.  As part of this initiative, NBCDI has recently partnered to implement programs in our Affiliate communities with Raising A Reader, a national nonprofit organization offering local agencies an evidence-based, early literacy and family engagement program. Raising A Reader's partnership with NBCDI serves more than 100 pre-k children and their families to foster healthy brain development and early literacy skills critical for children's school success. By working with Raising A Reader, NBCDI aims to improve literacy levels within African American communities by engaging families and helping them develop an at-home literacy routine with proven results that link to academic and life success.

NBCDI is currently working in collaboration with the JetBlue Soar with Reading program to bring book vending machines to Southeast Washington, D.C., an area described as a book desert.   The innovative program provides children with access to free books.  Three machines are installed in a local church, grocery store and branch of the Salvation Army. 

In addition, NBCDI is grateful for the support of our volunteers, Dr. Toni Walters, Dr. Vivian Johnson, and Dr. Jonella Mongo, who have been creating Between the Covers over the last decade.  A feature in NBCDI's Child Health Talk newsletter, and a popular conference workshop, Between the Covers is an ongoing effort to compile developmentally-appropriate and culturally-relevant books for our children that showcase African-American authors and illustrators.




"Life doesn't count for much unless you're willing to do your small part to leave our children - all of our children - a better world."

President Barack Obama, 2008

Since its inception, NBCDI has been dedicated to supporting the development of a high-quality, accessible, affordable and aligned system of early care and education for children birth through age eight.  Each of these years is critical to the socio-emotional and educational success of students, particularly students of color, because they provide the foundation for all subsequent learning and development. 

In our program and policy work, NBCDI supports federal, state and local efforts to provide increasing numbers of low-income children with access to quality early education and care; efforts to create a strong and supported early childhood workforce; and efforts to promote developmentally and culturally-appropriate standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment that are aligned within and across the early childhood to early grades continuum. 

We believe it is critical for the sometimes disparate communities of early care and education, K-12 education and higher education to come together, particularly around the priority area of effective teaching.  In both the early education and K-12 systems, we know that effective teaching and high-quality instruction is a central component of children's achievement, and, further, that consistent access to effective teachers and leaders can narrow the achievement gap and provide particularly strong benefits for children from low-income communities.[i]  Yet we also know that on nearly every available measure, we can be confident that Black students are being taught by less qualified and less effective teachers over time.  

  • To increase and equitably distribute quality across the birth through eight continuum, while also connecting early childhood and elementary schools, NBCDI focuses on: 
  • Supporting specific efforts to recruit, professionally prepare, compensate and retain a well-qualified workforce across multiple birth through eight settings, including family and center-based child care as well as public and charter schools
  • Commitments to ensuring cultural and racial diversity in the workforce, which has decreased, even while the population of children has grown increasingly more diverse[1] 
  • Supporting the development and revision of QRIS (Quality Rating and Improvement Systems) that are as focused on the "Quality" and the "Improvement" as they are on the "Rating"
  • Explicitly advocating for the inclusion of school- and community-based early childhood teachers and administrators in joint professional development opportunities with K-12 teachers and administrators
  • Encouraging the development of culturally, linguistically and developmentally valid and reliable measurement tools for young children and the classrooms in which they learn
  • Encouraging states, districts and schools to embed professional development opportunities that support a deeper understanding of families' race and culture, and explicitly teach teachers from all backgrounds how to develop and strengthen relationships with parents and the community

[1] Kagan, S. L., Kauerz, K., & Tarrant, K. (2008). The early care and education teaching workforce: At the fulcrum.New York, NY: Teachers College Press. See also Julia Coffman and Melinda Green's brief Reaching for Quality: Lessons from New Jersey on Raising Preschool Teacher Qualifications While Maintaining Workforce Diversity.  On the web at: www.buildinitiative.org/files/AbbottDiversityBrief.pdf .



  "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
- World Health Organization, 1948

To promote culturally-relevant healthy nutrition practices among Black families with young children, the National Black Child Development Institute developed and implements the Grow Green Get Fit and Good for Me! curricula through its Affiliate Network. The new Good for Me Recipe Book supplements the Good for Me curriculum and creates opportunities to deepen parental and caregiver engagement with children through a series of healthy recipes and developmentally appropriate activities.

With generous support from the Walmart Foundation, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) has developed the Good for Me! program, a key component of our national initiative to promote culturally-relevant healthy nutrition and fitness practices among Black families with young children. Since 2011, we have reached more than 50,000 individuals, including children, parents, and educators across the country. The goal of our initiative is to improve outcomes for young children of color by providing strengths-based resources that are reflective of our children's families, cultures, and communities.  


Rigorous evaluation, as conducted by Child Trends, the nation's leading nonprofit research organization, indicates that Good for Me! is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and easy to implement. Highlighted outcomes from our Health and Wellness program include: 

  • Parents reported that their families ate home cooked meals more often as a result of program participation.
  • Staff members reported that Good for Me! increased students' consumption of healthy foods in the classroom while improving their knowledge of and comfort with a range of fruits and vegetables.
  • Families reported an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables and a decrease in the consumption of fast food and soda.
  • 75% of all parents reported that the family engagement events helped "a lot" in their understanding of how to choose healthy meals for their families.
  • 100% of participating parents agreed that the program had positive impacts on their lives and on their children's lives.



"Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be."- Kahlil Gibran

There are only three questions that drive the National Black Child Development Institute's public policy agenda:

  1. Is this good for Black children and families?
  2. If yes, how can we support it? 
  3. If not, how can we make it better?

The answers to these questions help us achieve our mission of improving and advancing the quality of life for Black children and families.  As we collaborate with our Affiliates  and national partners, we have chosen to focus on the particular strengths and needs of Black children and families in the context of a shared goal: ensuring that all children are reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade.

NBCDI has chosen to adopt this objective in response to data demonstrating both the critical nature of this educational benchmark and the devastating performance of Black children, only 15 percent of whom are reading proficiently in 4th grade .  This goal also leads us to focus on each of the years from birth through age eight, which together provide the foundation for all subsequent learning and development.

NBCDI has identified three priority areas, for which we engage in a range of program, policy and advocacy activities at the federal, state and local levels:  

  1. Empowering Parents, Engaging Communities
  2. Improving Childcare and Teacher Quality 
  3. Ensuring Funding and Resource Equity

To successfully advance these priorities, NBCDI and the BCDI Affiliates are also committed to leadership development that builds a stronger, more diverse network to help our leaders and elected officials make positive, supportive and equitable funding and policy decisions that affect Black children, families and communities.  With support from the Alliance for Early Success, we are supporting specific work in Jackson, MS; Detroit, MI; and Milwaukee, WI to strengthen the advocacy engagement and impact of our Affiliates on behalf of Black families and their children birth through age 8. 




Consistent with our belief that parents are children's first and most important teachers, NBCDI relies on a definition of family engagement  that views it as a "systemic and sustained commitment that occurs across time, spans many settings, and requires shared responsibility from all parties."  Yet despite families' critical role, many schools and early childhood programs struggle to successfully engage and empower parents and the broader community.  While leaders and elected officials trumpet the importance of family, current policies and practices at the federal, state, district and school levels rarely provide sufficient support to teachers or to parents, nor is anyone held accountable for comprehensively and consistently engaging a diverse range of families.  Further, although there are excellent parenting education programs currently in use across the United States, many of them do not possess the depth of cultural relevance that allows the curriculum to fully resonate with Black parents, in particular. 

NBCDI believes in prioritizing conversations about race, culture, class and gender in the context of family engagement; not to say that these things must, or should, be at the forefront of all of our conversations, but rather to say that those of us who provide services and solutions should learn as much as we can about the context of race and culture bias in which our children and families are embedded.  It is critical for us to make conscious decisions about engaging with family and community members in ways that demonstrate a deeper and more complete understanding, as part of our efforts to build positive relationships that ensure parent engagement is an ongoing series of supports that create a strong foundation of connection, particularly in the early years.    

NEW: Check out the recent recommendations we made to the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding the development of a policy statement around family engagement! 




"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace."

- Kofi Annan

As part of the National Black Child Development Institute’s mission to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children and families, we are committed to addressing multiple aspects of the child welfare system, with a focus on prevention and effective, supportive, culturally competent care. 

Across our nation, almost half of the children currently in out-of-home placement care are children of color.  Black children are more likely to be in out-of-home care than are White children; they are also more likely to enter care at an earlier age and to remain in care for longer.   

To help support the transformation of child welfare systems, NBCDI has established the following priorities and objectives, as adapted from those developed in the BCDI-Seattle Affiliate

1. Ensure that African American culture is recognized, respected and reflected in child welfare practices, by integrating appropriate cultural competence teaching into social work training and prevention practices, and by engaging in community support practices that encourage family-to-family mentoring and kinship care support.

2. Implement targeted efforts to actively recruit foster and adoptive families that reflect the culture and ethnicity of children in out-of-home placement, given the dearth of licensed African American foster families and adoptive parents.

3. Focus attention on the issues of racial disproportionality and service disparities in child welfare systems with the goal of reducing and ultimately eliminating those disparities.

4. Engage in effective prevention efforts, including parenting and family support practices, to keep Black children safely in their homes and reduce the number of Black children removed from their homes.