Families are children's first teachers, and home is their first school. From birth to age 5, children develop skills that set the foundations for their later success. In the New Jersey Families Study (NJFS), we ask: How do families build skills in their young children and help them get ready to learn? Surprisingly, we know little about the innumerable, yet ordinary, ways that families teach their young children. To fill this gap, the project collected 11,500 hours of in-home video data from 21 families in Mercer County, NJ that consented to having two weeks of their daily lives recorded. These data are unprecedented for their observational scale and granular richness. No one has ever examined home life in the United States with this breadth, intensity, or duration.
The NJFS will deepen our understanding of how families support their children's learning in the earliest and most critical years. It can also lead to innovative solutions to help more children to become school-ready and more schools to become "children-ready." Our goal is to create a user-friendly, early childhood database for a worldwide research community. Meeting this goal serves the larger purpose of expanding the range of scholarship on early childhood education and opening up the data to diverse perspectives and disciplinary orientations.