Katherine E. Speirs, Ph.D.

Associate State Specialist for Early Childhood, FCS Cooperative Extension
Associate Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
Kate Speirs

McClelland Park Room 315L
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078

she, her, hers

Accepting New Students for Fall 2024

Katherine E. Speirs, Ph.D. will be accepting new graduate students, beginning in Fall 2024

Contact Katherine E. Speirs, Ph.D. for more information

Areas of Expertise
  • Childhood development
  • Early childhood education and care
  • Childhood obesity prevention, especially in early care and education settings
  • Program development and evaluation
  • Qualitative research methods
Research Focus

My research and outreach focus on early care and education as a setting for health promotion and obesity prevention for young children. I am interested in the feeding practices child care providers use with young children, connections between early care and education settings and the home, and how policy can shape young children’s well-being.  My outreach focuses on developing innovative approaches to improving the health and well-being of young children.  I am interested in how technology (e.g. text messages) can be used for outreach, program delivery, and evaluation.  As an extension specialist I work closely with Arizona’s Family & Consumer Health Sciences extension agents and staff to deliver and evaluate programing and address local needs.  I enjoy working collaboratively and believe that we can best address the complex challenges faced by young children and their families through multidisciplinary teamwork. 

Current Projects
Seed to Read: An Early Literacy and Healthy Eating Program

Hope Wilson (the Family, Consumer and Health Sciences Agent in Yavapai County) and I are developing Seed to Read, an early literacy and healthy eating program delivered to 3-5-year-old children in child care centers. Seed to Read consists of eight lessons each of which includes ten target vocabulary words, a target fruit or vegetable, four shared book reading activities, and four extension activities (a taste test, movement, gardening, and craft activity). Learn more about Seed to Read here: https://sites.google.com/email.arizona.edu/seedtoread/home


Cooperative Extension Programming and Resources for the Early Care and Education Workforce: A National Survey

This multi-state collaboration of Cooperative Extension faculty aims to help Cooperative Extension Systems (CES) provide high-quality training and resources for early care and education (ECE) professionals by facilitating multi-state partnerships and program development within Extension and educating outside stakeholders about Extension's work in this area. During spring 2021, we conducted an online survey to document how CES serve ECE professionals and interact with ECE state systems.

  • Courtney Aldrich, Michigan State University  
  • Azriella Friedman, University of Arizona
  • Courtney T. Luecking, University of Kentucky
  • Jodi L. Nerren, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
  • Audrey Rider, South Dakota State University
  • Carrie Shrier, Michigan State University
  • Kyleigh Sullivan, University of Missouri Extension
  • LaDonna Werth, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Hope Wilson, University of Arizona  


Improving Feeding Practices in Childcare Settings

This project includes a research and program development component.  The research component explores child care providers’ knowledge of and barriers to using health-promoting feeding practices.  I am currently translating the findings from this research study into online educational materials to assist child care providers in using best practices around feeding.


Feeding Kids in Care

This project explores family day care providers’ participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).  CACFP is a federal nutrition program that provides reimbursement for healthy meals and snacks served in child care facilities.  The multidisciplinary Feeding Kids in Care team is interested in understanding child care providers’ experiences participating in CACFP and the impact of program participation on the quality, variety and quantity of food served to young children, as well as other aspects of the care setting. More information can be found here: http://familyresiliency.illinois.edu/research/feeding-kids-care

  • Elizabeth Powers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Rachel Gordon, University of Louisiana Lafayette
  • Brenda Koester, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Stephanie Sloane, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Select Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Speirs, K.E., Gordon, R., Powers, E., Koester, B., Fiese. B.H. (2020). Licensed family child care providers’ participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Greater benefits and fewer burdens in highly urban areas? Early Education and Development, 31(2), 153-176. doi: 10.1080/10409289.2019.1648087

Grutzmacher, S., Munger, A., Speirs, K.E., Vafai, Y., Hilberg, E., Braunscheidel Duru, E., Worthington, L., Lachenmayr, L. (2019). Predicting attrition in a text-based nutrition education program: A survival analysis of Text2BHealthy. Journal of Medical Internet Reserach mHealth and uHealth.7, e9967- e9977. doi: 10.2196.mhealth.9967

Speirs, K.E., Vesely, C.V., & Roy, K. (2019). Lost in the data: Strategies for analyzing large-scale collaboratively-collected qualitative datasets. In A. Humble & E. Radina (Eds.), How qualitative data analysis happens: Moving beyond “themes emerged.” (pp. 128 – 141). Routledge.

Jamison, T., Kemp, C., Speirs, K.E., Swenson, A., & Vesely, C.V. (2019). Dialogue about qualitative data analysis software. In A. Humble & E. Radina (Eds.), How qualitative data analysis happens: Moving beyond “themes emerged.” (pp. 221-227). Routledge.

Grutzmacher, S.K., Braunscheidel-Duru, E., Speirs, K.E., Worthington, L., Munger, A.L., & Lachenmayr, L.A. (2018). Using text messages to engage low-income parents in school-based nutrition education. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 13, 335-339. doi:10.1080/19320248.2017.1364196

Lessard, L. & Speirs, K.E. (2018). Implementation strategies used by states to support physical activity licensing standards for toddlers in early care and education settings: An exploratory qualitative study. Childhood Obesity, 14(6), 386-392. doi:10.1089/chi.2018.0081

Dev, D.A., Speirs, K.E., Williams, N., Ramsay, S., McBride, B., Hatton-Bowers, H. (2017). Providers’ perspectives on self-regulation impact their use of responsive feeding practices in child care. Appetite, 118, 66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.07.022

Grutzmacher, S.K., Munger, A.L., Speirs, K.E., Zemeir, L.A., Richard, K.C., & Worthington, L. (2017). Feasibility of bidirectional text messages in evaluating a text-based nutrition education program for low-income parents: Results from the Text2BHealthy program. Evaluation and Program Planning, 64, 90-94. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2017.04.001

Musaad, S., Speirs, K.E., Hayes, J.T., Mobley, A., Fitzgerald, N., Jones, B.L., VanBrackle, A., & Sigman-Grant, M. (2017). The impact of environment, parent and child factors on health-related behaviors among low-income children. Appetite, 112, 260-271. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.01.035


Extension Publications and Fact Sheets

Speirs, K.E., Wilson, H., Argyros, J., Curley, D., Derfus, R., Dixon, A., & Martinez, C. (2021, May). Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. Arizona Cooperative Extension Publication AZ AZ1880-2021. http://extension.arizona.edu/pubs/az1880-2021.pdf

Downer, B., Arias, J., Dixon, A., & Speirs, K.E. (2021, May). Listening to Podcasts with Young Children: A Parents’ Guide. Arizona Cooperative Extension Publication AZ AZ1881-2021. http://extension.arizona.edu/pubs/az1881-2021.pdf

Speirs, K.E. (2020, February). Role Modeling Healthy Eating for Child Care Providers & Early Childhood Education Teachers. Arizona Cooperative Extension Publication AZ 1808-2020. http://extension.arizona.edu/pubs/az1808-2020.pdf

Warren, S.M., Speirs, K.E., Wilson, H. (2020, February). Shared Book Reading: A Great Way for Teachers to Boost Young Children’s Vocabulary. Arizona Cooperative Extension Publication AZ1809-2020. http://extension.arizona.edu/pubs/az1809-2020.pdf