A strategy for
whole communities

to support vibrant learning and brain development among infants and toddlers.

Fun, simple, and powerful. Starting at birth.

The Basics movement aims to help every family help every child reach their full potential.

The Basics Principles

The Basics Principles combine scientific rigor with broad coverage of key domains of early-childhood development. They are simple enough to commit to memory for regular use.

Maximize Love, Manage Stress

Warm and responsive parenting lays the foundation for healthy social, emotional and cognitive development.

Talk, Sing, and Point

Talking, singing and pointing support oral language development and later reading ability.

Count, Group, and Compare

Everyday activities focused on amounts and categories promote early math and reasoning skills.

Explore through Movement and Play

Movement and play build strong bodies and active imaginations.

Read and Discuss Stories

From infancy, frequent and interactive book reading is associated with cognitive and language development.

Socio-Ecological Saturation

A local backbone organization in each affiliated community recruits and equips partner organizations from multiple sectors. The organizations, in turn, engage parents and caregivers with information and supports for incorporating The Basics Principles into everyday family routines. For example:

The Basics Learning Network

The Basics Learning Network of communities is collectively building an international movement to support early learning and brain development for all children.

The Basics Adirondacks is a program of Adirondack Foundation’s Birth to Three Alliance (BT3). A coalition working to improve the life of every child under four in the Adirondack region of northern New York. Our program director coordinates this Alliance of key stakeholders, service agency representatives, and providers all focused on three areas: Healthy Children, Strong Families, and High-Quality Early Learning. We use the messages of the Basics to empower parents, caregivers, and educators to help children get the best possible start in life.

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The Basics Alexandria is being launched in 2020 as a program of Smart Beginnings Alexandria (SBA). SBA is a local chapter of the Virginia-wide Smart Beginnings network, leading community commitment to school readiness by bringing public and private sector leaders together to collaboratively provide comprehensive support, care and education for all of our young children and families. We are eager to use the Basics as a catalyst to engage a broader segment of the community in the effort to support and empower families of our youngest children.

Operation First Five is a community of collaborators who regularly come together to tackle tough issues facing children zero to five years old and their families. We are creating a movement behind a system of early childhood education that will be a vital safety net for all children and families in our community. With The Basics as a key component, our vision is that all children in Potter County grow up healthy, experience nurturing relationships, live and grow in engaging early learning environments, and enter school ready to succeed.

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Boston Basics, based in The Basics, Inc., began as a collaboration between the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard and the Black Philanthropy Fund. A current focus is socioecological saturation in the East Boston neighborhood, where a coalition representing multiple sectors aims to make East Boston an exemplar for other communities. Eastern Bank is the largest local funder. A citywide emphasis for Boston Basics is working with health care organizations and child care centers, supported by Boston Children’s Hospital and others.

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The Bridgeport Basics is a program of Bridgeport Prospers, a cradle-to-career collective impact initiative of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County (CT). It is a key component of our “Baby Bundle” of supports for caregivers and children prenatal-to-three, aimed at ensuring that all children are developmentally on track and ready for preschool. We share the Basics through 26 partners in 7 sectors, using a variety of tools ranging from ads on buses, billboards, and social media, to video placement in medical waiting areas and exam rooms.

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The Basics Chattahoochee Valley is an initiative of the Birth to PreK Committee of Columbus 2025’s Talented, Educated People. Our community plan is a concerted effort to reduce poverty, improve quality of life and increase prosperity. To achieve these great goals, we have to start with our babies. Waiting should not be an option. We must give every child a great start in life and the basic tools to thrive when they get to school and beyond.

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Basics DeKalb County is part of a comprehensive early learning initiative known as the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative. Basics DeKalb County is focused on educating and empowering parents, caregivers, and the community about the 5 fun, simple, and powerful ways we can make sure every child from every background has a great start in life. In DeKalb County you will find the Basics in libraries, early learning centers, food pantries, restaurants, healthcare settings, home visiting, and more places where families of young children gather.

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The Basics Guilford is a broad based initiative to create positive outcomes for over 37,000 children under the age of 5 in our community. We have strong support from the business community, faith leaders, healthcare professionals, nonprofits and local government agencies. Our outreach efforts include television advertising, collateral materials for businesses and grassroots distribution, sponsorships at community events and earned media outreach. Our work is integrated with a comprehensive effort called Ready for School, Ready for Life.

Harlem Children’s Zone is pleased to engage with local partners to further The Basics movement in Harlem. Our collaborative includes community-based organizations, healthcare providers, city agencies, and school districts that work together. Different partners have incorporated The Basics into the work in different ways: at HCZ, we have integrated the five principles into our direct-service early childhood programs, including The Baby College, for parents of 0 to 3-year-olds.

The Basics, Houston is a multi-sector collaboration spearheaded by the My Brother’s Keeper initiative of the Houston Public Health Department in close collaboration with the Houston Children’s Museum, colleagues from Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Smart Talk. The Basics Houston is focusing most intensively on two of the city’s communities, while at the same time working to expand the engagement of the city’s pediatrics and other medical providers.

Howard County Basics is a program of Howard County, Maryland’s “Launch into Learning” school readiness initiative sponsored by the Howard County Early Childhood Advisory Council. The five pillars of The Basics strategy support the goals of the Council which are: all children have access to high quality early learning and development programs, families have access to resources needed to be effective as their child’s first teacher, and children arrive at school with healthy minds and bodies.

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The Great Start Collaborative of Kent County’s Nurturing Parent Power Workgroup consists of parent leaders, systems influencers, and decision makers coming together with a common goal: to find a way to communicate to parents of young children the most important, actionable information about how to help little ones get a strong start in life. The group answered the clarion call with a forward-thinking action agenda for ecological saturation of the Success Basics and cultivating the power of parents.


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Klamath County is a rural community in Oregon that uses The Basics Principles in the Play2Learn program of the Kamath County School District, which is one of Klamath County School District’s favorite early learning programs! Due to COVID-19 and the Oregon Department of Education’s extended school closure, Play2Learn was canceled for the latter part of the school-year, but we look forward to posting new dates for the school-year 2020-21.


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Lebanon County, also called the Lebanon Valley, is proud to be the first community in Pennsylvania to adopt The Basics. The Basics Lebanon Valley is a project of the Connected Together work group, which operates under Better Together Lebanon County. This team is dedicated to healing and preventing trauma by building a compassionate community. Our vision is “kindness is a way of life.” We use The Basics as a tool to build attachment and bonding between caregivers and children, thereby promoting social-emotional skills and resilience in children.

The Basics Lowell is a collaboration of many community organizations and volunteers, under the leadership of Project LEARN, the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, and the Lowell Public Schools’ Early Childhood Advisory Council. These organizations work together to support the health, education, and social well-being of the economically and ethnically diverse families of Lowell and, through The Basics, support early childhood development and literacy.


The Basics Mecklenburg is a countywide coalition of organizations and individuals, working together to provide parents and caregivers with the information and support needed to make sure that every child gets a great start in life. Smart Start of Mecklenburg County, located in Charlotte, NC, serves as the backbone organization, providing foundational support for this community-wide early brain development education campaign. For more information, email MeckBasics@SmartStartofMeck.org or call (704)943-9596.

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The Mount Vernon Basics Movement is sponsored by the Mount Vernon City School District. We partner with The Mount Vernon Community Health Center, including OBGYN, pediatrics and dentistry. Another close partner is the Mount Vernon Children’s Public Library that works closely with local daycares and provides early educational programs. Family Ties of Westchester partners with our Movement to introduce pier support and advocacy for family care. Our wonderful community provides the unity needed for a strong foundation.

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The Norwalk Early Childhood Council (NECC) and the city’s Early Childhood Office work collaboratively with key stakeholders to ensure kindergarten readiness. We start at birth to support parents as their child’s first and best teacher. NECC’s community partners use The Basics to engage families and local professionals to ensure that all children get a great start in life. The NECC is a member of Norwalk ACTS, of the Strive Together network, committed to building a safe, equitable and successful life pathway for every child in Norwalk.

The Basics Nyack was initiated by the Nyack Public School District to elevate awareness across the community of the imperative need for early engagement around child development, starting from birth. We engage many types of organizations to help deliver tools and supports to the most important practitioners, parents and caregivers, to develop children who are kindergarten-ready. We greet each child in our District as a capable, lifelong learner, whose health, wellbeing, educational, and vocational success begins the moment they are born.

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The Basics Pensacola was born of a desire to come alongside families and offer practical, everyday ways to foster school readiness. The Basics community is a diverse network of organizations and individuals committed to a single goal: Improving young children’s lives by ensuring that all families have access to strategies for making the most of the time they spend with children from birth to 3 years old.

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RVA Basics brings together numerous and diverse partners to support the healthy development of young children by striving for socioecological saturation of The Basics in the Greater Richmond, VA region. With local nonprofits and community leaders, RVA Basics helps parents and caregivers increase kindergarten readiness by closing early achievement gaps and increasing public awareness of the critical importance of a child’s earliest years. Smart Beginnings Richmond is the regional anchor for RVA Basics.

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The First 1000 Days Sarasota is a multi-sector initiative with over 60 organizations striving to coordinate supports for pregnant women and families with children up to age three. Program priorities are two-fold: an electronic platform to connect families with resources and improve alignment of services between community partners and an education campaign to normalize the critical period of the first three years of life through use of The Basics principles to educate parents on fun, interactive, and easy ways to help their children thrive.

The Palmetto Basics was born out of a desire to come alongside families and offer practical, everyday ways to foster school readiness. The Palmetto Basics are being powered by Greenville, Pickens and Spartanburg County First Steps to School Readiness Partnerships. Vision and support has also been provided by cross sector partners and early childhood champions throughout the Upstate of South Carolina. The goal of the Palmetto Basics is to provide common early childhood language that can be used by all those who touch the lives of young children and their caregivers.

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The Basics, Southcoast is the flagship initiative of the Southcoast Coalition for Early Childhood Education, a cross-sector network of stakeholders dedicated to systemic change and a vision that every child enters kindergarten ready and able to reach their fullest potential. The coalition lives under the umbrella of NorthStar Learning Centers, Inc, a social justice people-of-color-led non-profit organization located in New Bedford, MA.

The Tarrytown Sleepy Hollow Basics launched in 2018 as an initiative of our local school foundation. It started as a primarily volunteer operation, but the school district has recently assumed administrative responsibility. A growing number of parents know and use The Basics principles, more community partnerships are being formed and strengthened, banners hang on the fences of playgrounds around town and in local businesses, parent and partner trainings continue, and enrollment in Basics Insights text messaging is growing.

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The Basics-Channel in Tasmania, Australia is a public health and education initiative to improve the life of every child from zero to three years in the Channel area of Southern Tasmania. We believe all community members can make a difference to a child’s learning and development to give our youngest members the best possible start in life, through the five Basics principles. The Steering Committee involves healthcare, schools, parents, libraries, and childcare, as well as the University of Tasmania and the Mayor of Kingborough.

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Twiggs County is the first rural community in Georgia to adopt The Basics. Our scarce resources and limited access to services has inspired a growing community collaboration that prioritizes literacy, as a long-term investment for improving the quality of life and health status of our county.  It is still true that “it takes a village to raise a child.”  Everyone in the community needs to know how they can help shape the lives of our children.  The Basics, Twiggs County, is a great way to unite parents, families and community partners.


The Basics Vermont was initiated by the Southeast Vermont Building Bright Futures (BBF) Regional Council in 2019. BBF is Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council. Our core regional team includes the hospital, Children’s Integrated Services, the Parent Child Center Network, the Early Childhood Educators Network, the Agency of Human Services, and the school district. We are creating a common language throughout the early childhood system using The Basics to support all of Vermont’s youngest citizens for a healthy and resilient life.

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The Yonkers Basics was inducted on May 10, 2017 by the Yonkers Public Schools and the City of Yonkers. It brings together a citywide coalition of organizations and individuals to share the five evidence-based principles with parents and caregivers around the city. The Yonkers Basics accomplishes Milestone 1 of My Brother’s Keeper: Ensure all children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally ready. The Yonkers Basics initiated the Hudson Valley Regional Basics Network in November 2018 to exchange ideas with other communities.

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The Basics Tools for Frontline Organizations


Our Community Toolkit provides a rich constellation of implementation guides, videos, and written resources for organizations and staff members who inform and support parents and caregivers around use of The Basics Principles.

View the toolkit

Basics Insights™

Basics Insights helps families put The Basics Principles into action. Each week, Basics Insights sends parents and caregivers two or more messages with science-based facts and activities to do with their children. The messages can stand alone or reinforce conversations with community-based service providers. The program is currently available in English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Arabic.

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Building the Evidence Base

Our approach is grounded in the latest research in early childhood learning, brain development, behavioral science, and community change. Our ongoing research agenda engages The Basics Learning Network (BLN) communities in documentation and evaluation for continuous learning and improvement. We aim to assess implementation progress against goals; track key outcomes with respect to community saturation, partner organizations, parents and caregivers, and children; uncover areas for improvement and innovation; and identify lessons and principles that can be shared within the multi-city BLN and the field at large.


The Science Behind The Basics Principles

Who We Are

The Basics, Inc. grew out of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University in partnership with the Black Philanthropy Fund in Boston. Our mission is to bolster brain development for social, emotional, and cognitive skill building among children from birth to age 3 as a sturdy foundation for school readiness across whole communities. We operate under the auspices of Third Sector New England (TSNE) MissionWorks.


View Our FY22 Annual Report

Ron Ferguson, PhD

Founder and President

Ron provides active thought leadership for the Basics Learning Network. He is an MIT-trained economist who has taught at Harvard Kennedy School since 1983, including 15 years as faculty director of the Achievement Gap Initiative. His research, writing, and consulting focus on issues of education and economic development.

Jim Quane, PhD

Chief Operating Officer

Jim provides oversight for all aspects of the organization’s operations. He served as Associate Director of the Urban Poverty Research Program at Harvard University for 25 years. Prior to that he was the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Chicago.

Zoë Hansen-DiBello, PhD

Sr. Liaison to the Basics Learning Network

Zoë leads the development and expansion of the Basics Learning Network.  She is an experienced systems thinker and mobilizer of cross-sector partnerships and has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy.

Jocelyn Friedlander, EdM

Director of Learning and Innovation

Jocelyn leads the development of Basics tools and resources, and helps steer the organization’s learning agenda. She has conducted research on domestic and international early childhood policy and systems and has an Ed.M. in Prevention Science and Practice.

Nimrah Bakhsh

Program Manager

A licensed ESL teacher with several years of experience in the public and private sectors, Nimrah helps facilitate the delivery and support of The Basics services to partner organizations in and around Boston.

Olivia Smith

Program Manager

Olivia manages the Basics Insights text messaging program and plays a key role in other product development and evaluation projects. She has previous experience in public health programming and research. She has a B.A. in Child Studies & Human Development and Community Health.

Turahn Dorsey

Board Member

Turahn is a researcher, policymaker and strategist focused on systems change and civic innovation. He is a Foundation Fellow with the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation working on transforming early childhood systems and Boston’s former Chief of Education.

Jeff Howard

Board Member, Clerk

Jeff is the founding chair of the Black Philanthropy Fund and the founder and president of the Efficacy Institute, Inc. He has over 30 years of experience as a consultant to school and community leaders as well as to corporate executives and senior managers of Fortune 500 companies.

Wendell Knox

Board Member, Treasurer

Wendell is the co-chair of the Black Philanthropy Fund. Prior to his retirement in 2009, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Abt Associates Inc. for 17 years and generated annual revenues of over $300 million from global operations in four lines of business.

Tom Manning

Board Member

Tom is a member of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. He was chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet and served as CEO of Cerberus Asia Operations & Advisory, Capgemini Asia Pacific, and Ernst & Young Asia Pacific.

Katherine S. McHugh

Board Member

Kathy is a retired Boston philanthropic leader, most recently executive director of the Cabot Family Charitable Trust. Previously she was a trial lawyer and served for 32 years as a trustee of Northeastern University. She is also a founding director of EdVestors and a board member of Phoenix Charter Academy Network.

Mehrdad Noorani

Board Member

Mehrdad is a member of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and was a Founding Partner of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a leading infrastructure private equity investment firm. He also served as Managing Director and Head of Airport Finance at General Electric Commercial Aviation Services.

Jeri Robinson

Board Member

Jeri is retired as vice president of Early Childhood Initiatives at Boston Children’s Museum, where she remains an advisor. She has over 45 years of experience in early childhood education and is a member of the Boston Public School Committee.

Michael Yogman, MD

Board Member

Michael is a pediatrician with Cambridge Pediatrics at Cambridge Hospital. The editor of several books and author of numerous articles on topics in infant development, he is the chair of the Child Mental Health Task Force of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Meet Our Team
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