Does it really surprise you that children entering kindergarten unprepared places them at a disadvantage over the long term? No, right! Well, it did surprise many Americans, according to a recently released survey from the Pearson Foundation.
According to the poll, about three-quarters of Americans assume that even if children enter kindergarten not ready for school, they will acquire the necessary literacy skills in elementary school to catch up with their peers. However, the research evidence shows the contrary – children who enter kindergarten unready usually do not catch up. In fact, research points out that children who enter kindergarten behind are three to four times more likely to drop out of school when they get older.
More than half of the population polled was unaware that family income is the best predictor of whether or not a child will succeed in school, nor were they aware that nearly half of the children from low-income families begin first grade up to two years behind their peers from higher income families. In addition, three-quarters of Americans are unaware that about 60 percent of low-income parents do not own age-appropriate books for their children.
While the vast majority of people polled acknowledged that early childhood illiteracy is problematic, they did not recognize that the simple act of reading to 3- to 5-year-olds can have significant impacts on children’s academic and life-long success.
“It’s common to under-estimate the importance of early literacy experiences for young children’s later language and literacy development, especially those experiences before the age of 3,” says Shannon Ayers, an assistant research professor at NIEER and a specialist on early literacy.
“Experiences of a caregiver cooing back at an infant provide the basis for conversation turn taking, and singing lullabies and silly rhyming songs provide experiences with the cadence of language,” she adds. “Lap reading and talking about stories and personal experiences with children offers exposure to story structure, print, and language (vocabulary development) in a comfortable, loving way that will provide the foundation for later learning.”
NIEER discusses literacy in the preschool classroom and its link to academic and lifelong achievement in the policy brief Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years.