At-risk children are often gravely behind in kindergarten readiness.
Literacy is a critical component of success in academics and provides the opportunity to have meaningful participation and contribution in today’s global society. The building blocks of literacy begin at birth, and early literacy experiences serve as the foundation for success as an adult.
There is overwhelming evidence that socio-economic disparities are gravely affecting the kindergarten readiness and academic achievement of poorer children (National Institute for Literacy, The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, 2006).
Read the research report commissioned by Jumpstart (2009) America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap (.pdf)
The two dynamics in play from birth through age 5 are rapid brain growth, coupled with sensory experience. The fusion of these two forces sets the stage for skill development and achievement in school. In a cross section of children with normal brain growth, children’s academic achievement has a positive direct correlation to their exposure to sensory experiences.
Not all children are exposed to the same sensory experience. In their research, Hart and Risley found differences in the number of words children are exposed to by age three. “Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children” (B. Hart and T. Risley, 1995) (.pdf)
Literacy is a key element of kindergarten readiness, a predictor of lifelong academic and professional success. According to research (Rodriquez and Tamis-LaMonda, Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years, Child Development, Vol. 82. #4., 2011), shared book reading, exposing children to frequent and varied adult speech, and the availability of learning materials, including children’s books; boosts the kindergarten readiness of children. Additionally, children who can read are better prepared to learn, have greater self-confidence and communication skills. Also, they have greater awareness of cross-cultural issues. By “exploring” new places through reading, children’s imagination is stimulated. They have a greater awareness of cross-cultural issues and empathy, as well.
Additionally, healthy early childhood development depends on nurturing relationships (Shonkoff and Phillips, Neurons to Neighborhoods, National Academy Press, 2000). Reading with children creates a close family bond that improves relationships and supports children’s mental health. Reading also directs family attention towards positive learning activities and other healthy influences.
PRE-LITERACY SKILLS ARE CRITICAL TO EARLY DEVELOMENT
Research shows that preschool children’s development of three basic skills can predict how well each child will learn to read once they begin kindergarten. These skills include
Oral language skills including vocabulary (breadth and usage) and language comprehension
Phonological awareness of word parts (I.e. syllables) and word patterns (i.e. rhyme and alliteration)
Print knowledge including alphabet recognition, print motivation, character/symbol/word associations
DDR’s Play & Learn program, which combines talking, singing, reading and playing, is designed to improve the pre-literacy language skills of pre-K children in at-risk communities. This intensive early childhood pre-literacy curriculum integrates learning activities in the classroom, provides professional development for early childhood teachers and distributes books to participating children, including literacy activity guides for their caregivers to use at home.