Thursday, January 17, 2013

Literacy in America

We frequently see the headlines about literacy in America, but I have stumbled upon an interesting statistic. As I perused the Kids Count Data on the Annie E Casey Foundation website, I saw a listing for "Children ages 1 to 5 whose family members read to them less than 3 days per week". The latest data that they have is 2007, but I still found the numbers shockingly high.

On average in the United States, 16% of children ages 1 to 5 are not read to by family members at least three times per week. That means no nightly bedtime stories, no fun rhyming books, no board books, no picture books, no literacy.

Research has shown that the earlier a child has access to books, the better their academic achievement. A baby that plays with board books, grows into a child that reads chapter books, grows into an adult that is literate and able to continue the cycle with their children. Without literacy, there can never be quality education!

For a family that is struggling to pay for the basics, affording books can be out of the question. How do you provide quality literacy moments for these families? With the prices of new children's books averaging from $3.00 for softcover to $15.00 for hardcover, it can be an unattainable dream for struggling households. Sadly, in these households a book can be a luxury, much like a cashmere sweater or concert tickets to another household. These children are beginning their education, markedly behind children coming from households with a family library. A family library does not have to be a huge affair, just a chance for children to look through books and understand that the marks they see on the pages, conveys a story to match the pictures. Every child should have this opportunity and every family member should have the opportunity to provide the joy and happiness that books can provide to their children.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Children Living in Poverty in the United States

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has recently released the new Kids Count Report. As I looked through the report, I was saddened to see the high percentage of kids living below the national poverty level.

United StatesScale
0 to 526%
6 to 1721%
less than 1823%

This is the rate of children living in poverty throughout the United States. The smallest children are the  highest percentage living below the national poverty level.

Early childhood experiences and education have been shown to affect a person's entire life. If a child is growing up below the poverty level from birth - 5 years of age, they are frequently at a large disadvantage by the time they start school.

A child's brain grows to 80% of it's adult size (source: Better Brains for Babies @ University of Georgia) during the early childhood years. The brain is stimulated by experiences, play, attachment and consistency. This is why quality care for children is so important. Children from homes below the national poverty level deserve to have opportunities that will stimulate that growth. They need not only new experiences, but they need repeated experiences to ingrain that event/knowledge into their brain.

As you look through the Kids Count Report, you will see a breakdown for the nation and for each state in several areas, including Demographics, Education, Economic Well-Being, Family and Community, Health, Safety and Risky Behaviors and Other Indicators.

One of the goals of the Kids Matter campaign is to raise awareness of quality child care for all children. What are your suggestions for equalizing children? Many states are going towards public preschool for all children, whether funded privately or publicly. This is a great start, but we need to discuss how we reach the full spectrum of children and how we offer a future full of education for all children.

Weigh in with your thoughts.