Census Data Shows More Reading, Academics for Children

By Sarah D. Sparks — August 12, 2011 1 min read
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Here’s a happy pile of data on which to start the weekend: According to new Census Bureau data, more young children are reading with their families and more older children are taking advanced courses than were a decade ago.

The Bureau’s newly released “A Child’s Day: 2009,” provides a set of 30 detailed indicators taken from the Survey of Income and Program Participation on the well-being of American children ages 18 and younger, disaggregated by age, income level, ethnic background and other characteristics. The data tables are pretty dense, but they include some promising tidbits, including:

• In 2009, more than half of children ages 1 to 5 were read to by their families at least seven times a week. There is still a reading gap between families in poverty and those better off—poor families read to their preschool children about six times a week on average, compared to nearly eight times a week on average for families at or above 200 percent of the poverty line. Family reading has been flat for middle and upper-income kids since 1998, but the number of poor families reading with their children shot up 37 percent during that time.

• More children took advanced courses in school. From 1998 to 2009, the percentage of children ages 12 to 17 in gifted classes increased from 21 percent to 27 percent. Among children in poverty, the percentage in gifted classes rose from 15.5 percent to 17 percent.

• After school and on weekends, young children—those ages 6 to 11—are more likely than older children to participate in academic enrichment, such as music, language or computers. This hasn’t changed since 1998, but more elementary-age children in poverty participated in academic enrichment in 2009—21 percent, compared to 18 percent in 1998.

There’s a lot of great information to dig into with these data, and I’ll be exploring them in more depth over the weekend. Readers, what strikes you about our changing profile of American children?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.