Early-literacy instruction can boost low-income children’s rate of school success. Yet, while many Americans are aware of the importance of pre-reading skills, they have much less understanding that children who fall behind in early-literacy skills often do not catch up to their peers in elementary school, according to a report and polling data released last week.
The report from Jumpstart, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, analyzes the research literature on early-childhood gaps, which has found that poor families tend to have less access to books. It also discusses the results from a small-scale randomized study of 62 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool programs in Illinois.
Half the pupils were assigned to a control group, while the others received early-literacy intervention services through Jumpstart. The groups initially showed no difference on three early-literacy assessments, but by the end of the school year, the pupils receiving the Jumpstart services had larger gains than their counterparts, especially in vocabulary and phonological awareness.
The Pearson Foundation Literacy Poll found that 92 percent of Americans believe the fact that many children under age 5 lack early-literacy skills is a problem, but 73 percent of adults think that children who start grade school unprepared to read will catch up to their peers.
A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2009 edition of Education Week