Program Overview

The Jumpstart program model supports our mission to work toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed by targeting this goal on three levels. Our program, in collaboration with our key partners, is designed to inspire children to learn, adults to teach and lead in their communities, and family members to get involved. Without any one of these program components, Jumpstart and our collaborative partners cannot be successful. Jumpstart’s program model reflects the importance of impacting individual children, their families, and future early childhood educators.

Diagram of Jumpstart overview - Family Involvement, School Success, Future Teachers


Each year, Jumpstart has the opportunity to train a dedicated group of volunteers, called Corps members, who spend more than 250 hours each working with young children from low-income communities. It is an organizational imperative that the time investment be deeply valuable to children and Corps members. It is Jumpstart’s moral obligation to ensure that the techniques and practices used by adults are based on the most current research and drive the greatest results for children. Jumpstart’s curriculum represents the organization’s effort to maximize the impact of every moment that Corps members spend with children, expanding the boundaries of what a supplemental education program can achieve for children, and working in collaboration with existing early childhood programs to enhance the education of young children.

Jumpstart provides developmentally appropriate language and literacy curriculum delivered to young children through supportive relationships with caring adults during Jumpstart sessions.

What the Research Tells Us

 Jumpstart students work in a classroom of young children.The most recent publication from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) on developmentally appropriate practice highlights that “young children become more engaged and learn better when the curriculum is not skimming lightly over a great many areas but instead allows for sustained time with a more select set [of areas]. When learning is meaningful, integrated, and in-depth, it is also more likely to stick” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p.43). Through its unique collaboration with researchers, curriculum developers, and practitioners from within its own network, Jumpstart has developed a curriculum that creates a powerful supplemental education program to address a targeted set of outcomes for children.

In the fall of 2005, Jumpstart began a deeper investigation of the key skills that are important predictors of later school success and of the strategies designed to support these skills that are appropriate and effective for use by volunteers. Drawing upon both the latest academic and field-based research, Jumpstart found that experts in early childhood education continue to converge around specific areas of language and literacy that are critical to school success. Based on these and other findings, Jumpstart’s curriculum is designed to focus on key language and literacy domains and skills:

Language and Literacy Domain Skills
Oral language Vocabulary
Books and print knowledge Alphabet knowledge
Meaning and use of print
Phonological awareness Phonemic awareness
Rhyme awareness

The fabric of Jumpstart’s curriculum is woven with relationships between children and caring adults and ongoing adult support for children’s learning. Jumpstart’s beliefs about social-emotional development in children provide the blueprint for Corps members’ training and work with children.

Jumpstart’s Curriculum

Fundamental elements of the Jumpstart curriculum include Jumpstart’s philosophical foundation in developmentally appropriate practice, its belief that the family is the child’s first and most important teacher, and its respect for early childhood programs and the role that teachers play in children’s lives. Corps Members use a session plan to prepare for and facilitate each Jumpstart session. The Jumpstart session provides children with a balance of individual and group learning, quiet and active learning, and child- and adult-initiated learning. Every aspect of the Jumpstart Session and session plan links to the above domains and skills and allows customized learning opportunities for individual children. The following concepts are integrated into Jumpstart’s curriculum:

  • Session activities are targeted and intentional. Research supports that certain kinds of learning require some explicit explanations and instruction (Schickedanz, 2008). All components, from the organization and flow of the session to core storybook selections to materials used, are chosen to support an overarching sequence of skill development related to the key language and literacy domains of oral language, books and print knowledge, and phonological awareness.
  • Skill development occurs in a deliberate sequence so that children continually return to and build upon concepts and ideas introduced earlier in the year. The opportunity to revisit new knowledge even occurs within each session plan. For example, in Center Time, children have the opportunity to experiment with and refine skills introduced earlier in the day during adult-initiated activities at Circle Time.
  • Each session plan revolves around a core storybook. The core storybook directly connects to the overall unit theme and serves as the inspiration for many of the learning activities included in the session plan. One book serves as the focus for two sessions. All children read and experience the core storybook. One copy remains in the Jumpstart session library so that children have the opportunity to return to favorite books again and again.
  • Session plans scaffold instruction to meet the needs of all children. Ideas for how to provide additional support, as well as how to extend learning, are included.
  • Teachers and Jumpstart Corps members collaborate to engage an entire classroom of children in structured activities and play that support children’s development in the Jumpstart curriculum’s target language and literacy domains.

Jumpstart Session Routine

Every Jumpstart session follows the same routine, which supports participation of children and adults in the following elements:

Welcome 2-5 minutes
Reading 15 minutes
Circle Time/
Introduction of Center Time Activities
15 minutes
5 minutes
Center Time/ Let’s Find Out About It 45-50 minutes
Sharing & Goodbye 5 minutes
  • Welcome: Children transition to Jumpstart from their previous activity and are welcomed to the Jumpstart session. Children build alphabet knowledge through exploration of name cards with other children and adults. Over time, children develop an understanding of meaning and use of print. Adults review the elements of the Jumpstart session and what comes next.
  • Reading: Adults read defined core storybooks with the same small groups of children they met with for Welcome. Children develop an interest in and enjoyment of stories, developing and deepening understanding of selected vocabulary and comprehension of the story through multiple readings of the same book.
    • Circle Time: Children participate in whole-group learning time that builds a sense of community among children and adults. Adults engage children in oral language, books and print knowledge, and phonological awareness practice as they sing songs, play word and letter games, and read poems.
  • Introduction of Center Time Activities: At the end of Circle Time, adults introduce and demonstrate Center Time activities. Adults use rich language and set children up to make choices.
  • Center Time: Centers are set up with materials and activities that support children’s language and literacy skill development. Activities are inspired by the unit theme and core storybook, deepening children’s understanding of the book and providing opportunities to use story vocabulary. Children actively engage with materials, make choices, explore, and play with peers and adults. Center Time activities include Writing, Books, Dramatic Play, Puzzles and Manipulatives, and Art or Science. Children choose the activities in which they will participate and direct their own movement between activities, space permitting.
    • Let’s Find Out About It: Let’s Find Out About It is a small group activity designed to build children’s concept knowledge and vocabulary. Let’s Find Out About It is about the exploration of new ideas, new information, objects and their use, and understanding how things work. Over the course of two sessions, all children take part in this activity in small groups with adult support.
  • Sharing & Goodbye: During this large group time, adults engage children in a dialog about children’s favorite session activities, using objects or examples of children’s work from Center Time and rich vocabulary to support the conversation. Adults also tell children what they can look forward to in the next session and conclude the session with a song.

Role of Adults in the Jumpstart Session

During Jumpstart, adults implement a consistent session routine and act as partners in play with children. “Teachers should respect young children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn and not be afraid to introduce information, model and coach on specific skills, use unusual vocabulary words, or challenge children to solve complex problems” (Epstein, 2007, p.130). Corps Members are trained to engage children in active learning, to promote literacy through play and to individualize and scaffold individual children’s learning. Corps members observe individual children’s skills, abilities and interests and engage children in conversations to stimulate new ideas and to build vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Jumpstart Fosters Social-Emotional Development

Jumpstart students lead young children on a playground.Social-emotional competencies allow children to learn from the world around them, overcome challenges, and form meaningful relationships with peers and adults. Children with high levels of social-emotional competence are equipped to face challenges in their academic and personal lives.

Elias et al. (1997) define social-emotional development as “The ability to understand, manage, and express the social and emotional aspects of one’s life in ways that enable the successful management of life’s tasks such as learning, forming relationships, solving everyday problems, and adapting to the complex demands of growth and development” (p. 2).

Jumpstart fosters children’s social-emotional development. Relationships between children and Corps members are central to Jumpstart’s program model. Through ongoing adult support and positive interactions between children and Corps members during two Jumpstart sessions per week for six to eight months, children develop secure relationships with caring adults. In addition, the themes and activities in Jumpstart’s curriculum provide children with opportunities to experience important social-emotional lessons. Jumpstart creates a caring learning community that allows children to thrive.

The Importance of Social-Emotional Competence

Jumpstart provides social-emotional support in line with practices that research has found to enhance children’s development. Current research indicates that a large percentage of children enter kindergarten without the necessary skills to succeed. In a nationally representative survey of 3,000 teachers, 20 percent of kindergarten teachers reported that more than half of the children in their classes had problems with social skills (Raver, 2002). This is especially true of schools in low-income communities (Manz & McWayne, 2004), including communities served by Jumpstart.

Cooper et al. (2009) explain that “low-income children are more likely than their economically advantaged peers to evidence early school difficulties, including behavioral and emotional problems, as well as poor school performance and are therefore placed at greater risk for continued difficulties throughout schooling, such as grade retention and school dropout” (p. 2).

The stress of growing up in under-resourced settings can negatively impact children’s development. As a result, children from low-income communities are at risk of entering kindergarten with developmental delays from which they may not recover without proper support (Cooper, Masi, & Vick, 2009).

Some children who grow up in low-income or poor households are more likely to succeed than others. This tendency to thrive despite tremendous obstacles is termed “resilience”. Resilient children typically have an attachment to a positive adult role model, high self-esteem and self-efficacy, good problem solving skills, and high levels of emotional regulation. Each of these indicators is developed through social and emotional learning (Buckner, Mezzacappa, & Beardslee, 2003). Social-emotional competence provides the base for academic achievement and is a distinguishing factor between children from low-income backgrounds who succeed and those who do not. To deliver our mission of preparing preschool children for school success, the Jumpstart program is designed to foster social-emotional learning through consistent adult-child relationships, unit themes, and learning activities throughout each session.

Social-Emotional Development and School Success

Although Jumpstart’s primary focus is language and literacy development, the program recognizes the important connections between social-emotional competencies and academic achievement. Jumpstart’s beliefs about social-emotional development provide the blueprint for Corps members’ training and work with children.

Zins & Elias (2006) write that “social-emotional competence and academic achievement are interwoven and that integrated, coordinated instruction in both areas maximizes students’ potential to succeed in school and throughout their lives” (p. 1).

The relationship between social-emotional competencies and academic skills is cyclical and continues throughout development. Research shows that children who have high levels of language and literacy development are best able to develop their social-emotional competencies. Children use the language and literacy skills learned in early childhood to express themselves and learn from the world around them. These experiences in turn foster their social-emotional development (Tomblin, 2005; Senechal, 2005). In addition, research supports the notion that positive social competencies and social-emotional factors are important predictors of academic success. There are significant positive correlations between children’s performance on social measures and their performance on academic measures (Agostin & Bain, 1997; McClelland, Acock, & Morrison, 2006; Miles, & Stipek, 2006). Children who have developed strong social-emotional competencies are able to get the most out of their school experience whereas children who experience emotional difficulties are highly likely to struggle in the early school years (Agostin & Bain, 1997; Raver, 2002; McClelland, Acock, & Morrison, 2006). It is important to support children’s development in both of these areas so that they have the best opportunity for school success.

Jumpstart’s dedication to fostering social-emotional development is evident in the relationship between children and caring adults, which provides the framework for delivering Jumpstart’s curriculum. Jumpstart’s training and preparation for Corps members include in-depth review and practice of the curriculum along with approaches and strategies for delivering curricular elements that are consistent with strategies shown by current research to support children’s development of social-emotional competence. Corps members gain an understanding of how young children think and learn, how to create a supportive learning environment, and adult-child interactions that build relationships with children and engage them in positive learning experiences. Through this and other trainings, Corps members learn the importance of being consistent in their behavior and their expectations for children, and of establishing routines and modeling transition strategies that help children move smoothly from regular classroom activities to the Jumpstart session and through the session elements. They learn to apply strategies that allow children opportunities to respond to and ask questions and to make connections to children’s personal lives and experiences that allow for meaningful back-and-forth exchanges. In addition, Corps members use a problem solving approach to conflict that engages children in defining the problem at hand, encourages children to share their perspectives, and prompts children to create a solution to the problem. During the Jumpstart session learning activities are carefully designed to facilitate children’s engagement in the learning process and allow them to explore new ideas and information.


Jumpstart believes in a whole child approach to prepare children for school success. Research has shown that social-emotional competence is a key element of school achievement (Bierman et al., 2008; Raver, 2002; McClelland, Acock, & Morrison, 2006). By fostering children’s social-emotional development through the delivery of the curriculum, Jumpstart provides significant opportunities for children to achieve school success. The social-emotional competencies woven into the Jumpstart program help children to become engaged and invested learners who take pride in their work, respond positively to adults, and remain motivated to overcome challenges and setbacks. In teaching children determination and problem solving skills, Jumpstart plays a role in shaping them to be successful students.