Children Now released its 2012 California County Scorecard yesterday, and its news for young children in Contra Costa is both promising and concerning.
Because what happens in early childhood lays the foundation for later success in school and life, technically all 28 indicators in the report have something to do with early childhood. But for the sake of understanding how well we are doing at laying the foundation, let’s examine indicators specific to early childhood.
The best news is that Contra Costa is seeing significant improvement in two indicators of literacy:
- The number of young children who are read to every day is up by 12%; and
- The number of third-graders who are reading at grade level is up 26%.
Even in our highly technological world, literacy remains the basis for understanding, learning, and advancement. And early literacy – the exposure to language, vocabulary, books, pictures, letters and words from infancy – is the foundation for reading success in school. That’s why third grade reading is an important reflection on the success of efforts to promote literacy in the years before kindergarten.
But even with these increases, only 68% of Contra Costa’s young children are read to every day and only 53% read at grade level in 3rd grade. There’s still a lot of room to grow in these areas. And when you look deeper into the data, you find significant disparities by race and ethnicity.
While 63% of Latino families in Contra Costa report reading to their children, compared with 75% of white families, Latino and African-American children are reading at grade level at only half the rate of white and Asian children. The number of Latino and African-American children not reading at grade level represents about one-fifth of all Contra Costa third graders. This should be a red flag to all who hope to educate, train, and employ the future work forces of our county.
To address this disparity, it will require concerted coordinated efforts not just by schools, but by everyone who supports families and children. It’s time to double down on our current efforts to support and educate families, raise the quality of early learning, and promote early literacy.
See all 28 indicators used to measure the well-being of Contra Costa’s children.