By the time children from impoverished backgrounds arrive at school, they are often already lagging behind their peers. What do these children need to level the playing field?
The critical importance of early experiences to a person’s life is well established. Early childhood (birth to age 8) is an amazing time of growth and learning when young children are developing the skills to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, synthesize information, think critically, and much, much more. During this time brains are developing more rapidly than at any other point in a person’s life.
This period provides an incredible opportunity to support all children in developing language, vocabulary, cognitive, physical, and social-emotional skills. As adults in children’s lives and as educators, this is a golden opportunity that is not to be missed! Research in the U.S. has demonstrated that the greatest indicator for children’s academic achievement at school is linked to the number of words a child hears between birth and age 3.
This is also heavily linked to poverty: Children from more impoverished backgrounds are less likely to hear large volumes of words and rich vocabulary early in life. In the development community, we often work with children growing up in poverty. We can do better in terms of supporting their early language and literacy development so that when they start first grade, they are better prepared to learn to read, write, problem-solve, and to learn all the other skills taught at school.