Helping Philly’s Tiny Scholars Get Ahead at Early Literacy Academy
Families in Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Kensington have received a new, accessible childcare option with the opening of Early Literacy Academy (ELA), a pre-school and daycare for children from six weeks to five years old. Located at 1601 N. 4th Street, ELA offers a wide range of educational activities for the children enrolled and serves fresh lunches each day.
LaToya Monroe, the owner of ELA, has been working hard to make her vision for “learner-centered” quality care and education a reality for more than a decade.
“When my daughter was a baby, I had a really difficult time finding this type of childcare and it was stressful – and I knew it was a problem that I could help solve,” Monroe said. “With ELA I have been determined to create an environment that would encourage children to explore their world freely and have fun doing so.”
At the center’s opening ceremony back in May, children and their families released Monarch butterflies to celebrate the new inclusive environment filled with a variety of fun learning activities. After the ceremony, everyone participated in butterfly related crafts and activities.
Monroe called the event “spectacular,” adding that, in a special turn of events, some of the butterflies released at the event didn’t want to fly away.
“Instead of flying off, they spent time in our courtyard and landed on children, which was so much fun for everyone,” Monroe said. “Overall it was a really special event and we’re excited to continue to make memories like this one.”
ELA welcomes children from all over the city and suburbs. The organization prides itself on its core mission of diversity, “ensuring students develop empathy and an understanding of children from different backgrounds,” as stated in their press release.
“We celebrate our incredibly diverse student body every chance we get,” Monroe said. “We have students from all over, including countries such as Algeria, Estonia, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. One student came to us speaking very little English and now holds full conversations with her peers.”
The space itself is bright, colorful and comfortable, also including an enclosed, grassy outdoor recreation space.
Monroe combined focuses on social and emotional development with a breadth of research about quality early education processes in order to craft and perfect her vision for ELA, seeking, through these methods, to create “a classroom that positively impacts the learning process of young children.” ELA seeks to prepare children for the next step in their education, yearning for its tiny alumni to perform better in elementary school than they may have without their education from the institution.
A point of their focus is the relationship between educators and families, as fostering these positive connections with families helps contribute to optimal learning and enrichment. ELA has implemented a program called Brightwheel, which gives parents private, real-time updates, delivered to their mobile phone during school hours, pertaining to their child.
ELA’s highly refined programs are largely based on Lev Vgotsky’s Zone of Proximal Distance (ZPD). Vygotsky believed that when a child is in the ZPD for a particular task, providing assistance gives the child the ‘boost’ needed to achieve the task. Leveraging this theory, ELA trusts that scaffolding effective, appropriate learning goals around intentional play activities while simultaneously providing support to early learners is the optimal way for learning to occur.
Samantha Jacob, a parent of an ELA student, left a glowing review on the organization’s Facebook page, highlighting the uniqueness and quality of care offered by the pre-school.
“My son attends and there is a world of difference between where he was and this place. They are educated, well-spoken people who run it and have great values,” Jacob wrote. “My son has already adjusted to the routines there and is happy whenever I pick him up and drop him off. This place is not just daycare- it is truly early childhood education.”
“We teach children to respect boundaries rather than restrain them and we encourage them to be good citizens of the world by caring for one another, sharing with one another and being kind,” Monroe said. “I’m really proud – we feel confident that our formulas are working. It’s incredible to see it all come to fruition!” •