Just as there is an achievement gap in school performance, there is a school readiness gap that separates disadvantaged children from their more affluent peers. As early as 18 months, low-income children begin to fall behind in vocabulary development and other skills critical for school success. Parents play an enormous role in closing this gap, as do daycare providers, pediatricians, preschools programs, and the broader community.
Research shows that learning begins long before a child enters kindergarten. Children, even infants soak up words, rhymes, songs, and images. Vocabulary development is particularly important. A child’s health, and the timely recognition of developmental delays, is another critical aspect of school readiness. Doctors, care providers, and preschool teachers play a key role.
By the numbers
of low-income children have no children’s books at home.
Poor children hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.
By age 2, poor children are already behind their peers in listening, counting, and other skills essential to literacy.
A child’s vocabulary as early as age 3 can predict third grade reading achievement.
By age 5, a typical middle-class child recognizes 22 letters of the alphabet, compared to 9 for a child from a low-income family.
Who can help
- Birth to Five Policy Alliance—The organization works to identify and build champions for early childhood policy, provides state-based advocacy, and disseminates research and policy analysis.
- Build Initiative—This nonprofit helps states construct integrated, coordinated systems of programs, policies, and services for young children and their families.
- Center for Public Education—This offshoot of the National School Boards Association has done considerable work developing pre-K programs and aligning them with the elementary grades.
- Child Trends—This nonprofit, nonpartisan research center does extensive research and analysis on early childhood development and school readiness.
- Coalition for Community Schools—This coalition advocates for community schools and for strategies that use local agencies and nonprofits to supplement school efforts.
- First Five Years Fund—This nonprofit provides knowledge, data, and advocacy, helping federal policymakers make the right.
- Ounce of Prevention Fund—This national organization develops early childhood programs, trains providers, and advocates for policies.
- Ready Nation —This initiative helps develop business coalitions supporting good practice and policy around early childhood.
- Zero to Three—This organization informs, trains, and supports professionals, policymakers, and parents.