Miles Ahead

Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.
There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from higher socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into welfare families.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from upper income and working class families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this troublesome situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The big question is what do we do about it?  

One thought on “Miles Ahead

  1. Skip

    Nationally, the parents of about 30% of our kids don’t understand the critical role they play in preparing their children to succeed in school. 85% of the kids who are assessed as “Not Ready” when they start Kindergarten will not test as proficient on 3rd grade standardized tests. Very few kids who do not test as proficient in 3rd grade will ever graduate from high school.

    While our focus must always be on positive results for children, the real target must be their parents. The awareness and understanding of their critical role is a starting point. Then a change in their behavior is required, necessitating a cultural change for those parents.

    This is not a racial issue. While poverty does not cause illiteracy, kids from low-income families – of all races – are at risk.

    The ROI to the child, family and community from investing in early childhood education for an at-risk cold is 17:1. Check out The Heckman Equation website for more information on the economics of early childhood education. James Heckmam is a Nobel Prize Laureate from the University of Chicago.

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