Generally, children who are exposed to language and reading at a very young age are more likely to have a chance to excel in their educational pursuits. The New York Times (NYT) shares that Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman said, “The greatest barrier to college education is not high tuitions or the risk of student debt; it’s in the skills children have when they first enter kindergarten.” He goes on to explain that paying for preschool saves society money in the long run.
Before kids reach kindergarten age, children’s minds rapidly develop like no other time in human life. One way to bring learning to the forefront of how we support children as a society is to start, fund, and support programs that boost children’s literacy, including those that empower parents and families through giving them books.
In the NYT article, “Helping Children Thrive,” the Harlem Children’s Zone Baby College and Harlem Gems programs are given as exemplary examples of early education programs. These programs have a four-to-one student teacher ratio and teach pre-literacy, French, and social skills. High quality preschool programs help underprivileged children to make up for some of the resources they are lacking, and another example of a literacy program supporting young children is called “Reach Out and Read.”
Through this non-profit program, doctors and nurses give out books to families during young children’s check-ups and remind them of the importance of reading to children. Children receive new books at each check-up, and the Reach Out and Read site shares that, “many Reach Out and Read program sites create literacy-rich environments that include gently-used books for waiting room use and/or volunteer readers to model for parents the techniques of reading aloud to young children.” Many parents may not be able to afford new books for their kids, and those who might not traditionally read to their children at home can benefit from another adult modelling the read aloud process for them.
Reach Out and Read serves 4.5 million children in all 50 states of the U.S. Their research shows that the preschoolers they work with score three to six months ahead of peers on vocabulary tests. This program is important because it directly recognizes children’s literacy as important to their growth and development, and it is powerful because it can reach so many children through doctor’s visits. By linking reading with physical health, the program honors reading as the crucial element to children’s well-being that research has shown it to be.
Lectura Books provides award-winning bilingual books that are a great tool for English Learner students and their parents. The multicultural stories of each book help to engage the parents of ELL students. This encourages more reading and speaking of English at home. Visit their website to see some of their most popular book titles.
The Latino Family Literacy Project are experts in working with Spanish speaking parents and can train your staff to work specifically with Spanish-speaking parents at your school. Attendees can participate via online webinar training and will learn a culturally competent and research-based program to deliver to parents either online or in person at school.