Friday, November 26, 2010

Sobering Statistics

Before kindergarten:

  • More than 30% of low-income children have no familiarity with print -- they don't know which way up to hold a book, or where the story starts and ends, or that we read from left to right. 17% of middle-income kids and 8% of those with college-educated parents also lack this knowledge.

  • About 60% of low-income kids don't know the alphabet. More than 30% of middle-income kids don't know it either. That's one in three for middle-income kids.

  • Only a mere 6% of low-income and 18% of middle-income kids understand numerical sequence. (Stats compliments of Kappan Magazine, Nov. 2010)

What does this mean? It means that children don't all start at the same point when they begin kindergarten. And it means that a lot more kids are falling through the cracks than we used to think.

The good news is that we have the tools to fix all these problems right at home.

  • Read to your child every day. 20 minutes is an absolute minimum. Aim for 30 or 40. Spread it out during the day, if possible. If your child is in daycare, ask how often the daycare provider reads to the kids. Talk about how we hold books, point out which side we start reading from, look for the beginning and the end of each book.

  • Invest in or check out some alphabet books. Read them. Get or make some alphabet flash cards (use 3x5 index cards, write each letter on one card in clear, block form. Cut out magazine pictures of things that start with that letter, or draw a picture if you're artsy.) Sing the alphabet song -- here's a whole bunch of people singing the classic version, or watch this version on YouTube, or SuperWhy's version.

  • I don't say this very often, but some TV shows do a nice job of reinforcing letter and number concepts. On PBS, Sesame Street, SuperWhy and Between the Lions would be my picks for the basics. Martha Speaks and Word Girl are good vocabulary builders. On Nick Jr., Dora the Explorer does a lot with counting, so that might be a good choice. The classic Blues Clues (the Steve years) also does a lot of counting and some letter recognition. Be intentional with TV and videos here: most kid's shows aren't really all that educational in nature.

  • Look for counting books at the library or bookstore. Here are some titles to get you started. Count stuff. Count socks as you put them in drawers. Count your child's toes. Count plates as you set the table. Count the burgers in your fast food order. Count stoplights on the way home. Buy or make number flashcards just like the alphabet ones. Have your child put stickers on each card to represent the number shown.

  • Some people disagree with this, but Bookivore is a firm believer in the importance of preschool. If your state offers universal preschool, take advantage of it. Participation in a preschool program offers tons of literacy benefits, as well as social benefits. If you don't have universal preschool, consider enrolling your child for at least one year in a private program. Even if you are a homeschooler, consider sending your child to a preschool program. Keep in mind that the focus of preschool is not academics -- it's learning through play and experience -- and some of that experience is hard to provide at home, at least not to the same scope and degree to which a good preschool can. Experiences are a huge part of cultural capital. I realize this is not a home-tool per se, but it is a big predictor of whether kids will begin kindergarten with gaps, so I would not be doing my job if if didn't mention it

Keep reading to your kids. Keep offering them whatever experiences you can. We're getting there.

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