Supporting the

Rights & Needs of Young Children

Defending the Early Years

DEY’s Primary Goals

  • To advocate at the grassroots, local, state, regional, and federal levels for education policies based on child development theory and research.
  • To mobilize the early childhood community to speak up for age-appropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices that are based on research.
  • To promote appropriate practices in early childhood classrooms and to support educators in counteracting policies and practices that undermine whole child health and optimal learning.

DEY’s Mission

Our mission is to work for just, equitable, and quality early childhood education and care for every young child. We inform educators, administrators, and parents about how children develop and learn best. We advocate for active, playful, experiential
approaches to learning informed by child development theory and evidence-based research.

What’s New at DEY?

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We began the 6th Annual Summer Institute on Day 1 by discussing Today’s Quality Landscape.

Moderated by Denisha Jones, our Day 1 panel included:

Amy O’Leary, Executive Director of Strategies for Children and host of the 9:30 call

Dale Farran, Emerita Professor at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and DEY National Advisor.

Darielle Blevins. Assistant Research Professor, Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University

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On Day 2, we focused on Advancing Quality: Policy and Practice. We invited three Bank Street Early Childhood Policy Fellows to share their work on advancing quality.

Danielle Johnson-Offei, Executive Director Durham’s Partnership for Children

Jamie Bonczyk, MA, CPPM Program Officer, 80×3: Resilient From The Start

Suzette Espinoza-Cruz, Senior Early Education Programs Specialist – CCAP Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning

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Co-moderated by Nancy Carlson-Paige and Denisha Jones, our Day 3 panel included:

Elena Aydarova, Assistant Professor, Educational Policy Studies Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Makai Kellogg, Equity and Diversity Coordinator at School for Friends, Washington, DC.

Kathy Greeley, Retired Educator, Cambridge and Boston Public Schools.

DEY Dialogues
Discussions in Defense of Childhood

Illustration of two orange microphones with text "DEY DIALOGUES: Discussions in Defense of Childhood" on a blue background.

We are excited to announce the launch of DEY Dialogues: Discussions in Defense of Childhood. These short conversations feature early childhood educators, caregivers, advocates, and activists sharing their insights and experiences.

Moderated by DEY Executive Director Denisha Jones, these dialogues aim to inspire and reaffirm our dedication to protecting and nurturing childhood. Join us in this important mission of defending childhood and advocating for the well-being of society’s youngest members.

Check out our first three dialogues on quality in ECEC, resisting book bans, and concerns about the Science of Reading. Stay tuned for upcoming dialogues and join the conversation!

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
DEY Launches Regional Childhood Defenders Working Groups

We are excited to announce the formation of six DEY Regional Childhood Defender Working Groups.

We recruited early childhood advocates to join local groups that can work together to advance our mission and our campaign on restoring the link between high quality and child development.

DEY Regional Childhood Defender Working Groups allow our community of early childhood educators, advocates, and parents to ensure that the people working in and affected by early childhood policy and practice are the voice of what policy and practice changes need to be enacted.

Together we will document how grassroots groups of early childhood advocates can produce the change we need to protect childhood.

Check out the groups below and follow DEY for updates on their work!

No regional group in your area? Stay tuned as we hope to launch new groups in the future!

Advertisement for regional childhood defender working groups by dey, inviting individuals passionate about defending the early years to join and apply. Visit the link for more information.

When Aidan Became a Brother is a book about a trans kid preparing to become a brother. DEY National Advisor Laleña Garcia loves reading this book to her kindergarteners and tells us why in our latest Banned Book Club feature.  Learn more about these amazing books and why we must resist attempts to deny children access to diverse literature.

DEY continues to resist the attempts to censor children’s literature that explores race, gender, sexual orientation, and the truth about our country’s history. In an effort to support early childhood educators, parents, and advocates, we are launching the DEY Banned Book Club. Each month, we will feature a banned early childhood book that we encourage you to read to the children in your life. Reading to children about complex topics is the best way we can build a foundation for their ability to make sense now and work to address them when they are older.

Are you interested in sharing a banned book? Email to sign up for the DEY Banned Book Club!

YouTube video
YouTube video

In Defense of Early Childhood Education and Care

Restoring the Link Between High Quality and Child Development

Last year, we launched our first advocacy campaign: In Defense of Early Childhood Education and Care: Resorting the Link Between High Quality and Child Development. This campaign aims to reaffirm our commitment as early childhood educators to the principles of child development and resist mandates and policies not based on child development.

Since the launch, we have gained over 100 endorsers, hosted a town hall, and added references to our What We Know About Child Development list. Next week at the NAEYC conference in Nashville, TN, we will continue promoting the campaign by sharing ideas on linking our practices as educators and advocates to what we know about child development.

Our second year of the campaign will include short videos and fact sheets that you can use to advocate for practices that are rooted in child development. Our focus will shift to explore what we mean by high quality. We know quality is a significant issue in early childhood education and care. However, it is often conflated with bureaucratic rules and requirements, making identifying actual high-quality practices in ECEC challenging. We will conduct research and host town halls to develop a high-quality framework based on the knowledge and experiences of educators and providers rooted in what we know about fostering optimal child development. We hope that this work will support you in creating a just and equitable early childhood environment.

We invite you to check out the references for our statement and send us any that you think should be included. If you cannot join us in Nashville, please look for a reflection in the November newsletter. And please share our statement with your networks. Our goal for year 2 is to have 500 endorsers!

Click here to read and endorse our sign on statement.

podcasts. PUBLICATIONS. resources.
Governor Signs Bills Impacting Michigan Teachers

Governor Signs Bills Impacting Michigan Teachers

The bills signed by Governor Whitmer would impact teachers’ unions, pay in Michigan’s largest school district, and could help lure…

Colorful blurred background with podcast logo and picture of Black woman with braids

Slowing Down with Kisha Reid

In this episode, Kisha Reid talks with Denisha Jones about her new nature-based discovery child care program, her visions for inspiring more teachers to choose the power of play, and her plans to slow down.

Five dolls dressed in white sit on a wooden floor, surrounded by various playtime medical equipment, including a toy stethoscope, blood pressure monitor, and a stuffed animal.

It’s Us!: Disabled & Neurodivergent Children At Play in Brookings, South Dakota, USA

Disabled & Neurodivergent Children At Play: Play offers a perfect opportunity for young children – and their adults! – to explore concepts related to disability.

Take Action
Stand With DEY
Become an Activist

DEY seeks to rally parents and educators to take action on policies affecting the education of young children, by encouraging them to speak out with well-reasoned arguments against inappropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices.

Apply for Action Grant

DEY provides mini-grants of between $200 and $500 to individuals and organizations to help foster work in communities across the country. DEY’s first mini-grant, awarded in 2014, resulted in a rally for play that took place in Minneapolis.


Are you concerned about the direction that education policy is going? We are, too!
Help DEY continue its important work advocating for appropriate education for young children. Please Consider Making a Donation.

A Brief Look at DEY’s impact.
DEY has an active presence on Facebook, with over 10,000 followers, and on Twitter, with over 2,000 followers.
Viewer traction of DEY produced videos also available on DEY’s YouTube channel.
Distinguished nationally and internationally-known early childhood experts and organizations.
DEY’s mini-grant impact on ensuring child-initiated play prospers
DEY issued comprehensive reports, position statements, and fact sheets in English and Spanish.
DEY’s reports, position papers, and op-eds have been quoted and published in the major national media and press.
DEY Newsletter

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