School readiness gap narrowing

childrennowWe’ve been working to improve early childhood experiences for nearly 20 years – and new research shows it’s paying off.

Last month, researchers from Stanford University released new data comparing 40,000 children who started kindergarten in 1998, 2006, and 2010. They found that children from the poorest and wealthiest families improved in early literacy and math assessments. Despite the Great Recession and growing inequality in the country, children in poverty made the largest gains.

The lead researcher said the achievement gap is closing “not because schools are getting more equal, but because something in early childhood is becoming more equal.”  According to researchers, the leveling force may be parents.

Continue reading

Boosting Language Skills for Latino Kids

hv_1A UC Berkeley study released last week found that Latino toddlers fall behind white peers in language development by age 2, and by the time they reach preschool age, the vocabularies of Latino children are far smaller. This gap in early language and literacy skills can lead to an achievement gap that persists in school and beyond.

One solution cited by the researchers is to provide effective parenting education and support early in a child’s life and to teach parents how to nurture their children’s language and literacy skills.

Continue reading

New Campaign Makes Every Word Count

HilaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Oakland last week to launch a new campaign focused on helping parents turn everyday activities into enriching vocabulary-building experiences for their children.

Sponsored by the Bay Area Council, Too Small to Fail, Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the ‘Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing’ campaign is designed to reduce the “word gap” that puts many low-income children behind their higher income peers before they even start kindergarten.

About the Word Gap

Research shows that low-income children hear about 30 million fewer words than children in high-income families by the time they’re four years old. The more words children hear – whether it’s talking, reading or singing – the richer their vocabulary becomes and the better they do in school. For many children, the word gap leads to an achievement gap that persists into school and beyond. Continue reading

Hollywood Tackles the “Word Gap”

“If money wasn’t an object and you could fund any major intervention for children, what would it be?”

That was the question posed to Dr. Bruce Perry, the nation’s expert on early childhood development and trauma, when we hosted him for a seminar earlier this year.

Dr. Perry said he would focus on a wide public education effort to help the general public better understand core concepts of early childhood brain development. To do that, he suggested integrating these concepts into television programs. So as you’re watching your favorite comedy, for example, you may also get a dose of important early childhood concepts or learn about how critical brain development is during a child’s first three years. Continue reading

Read to Your Baby


First-5_image-7-1It’s never too early to start reading to your child – even when he or she is a baby!

Here’s why:

  • The simple act of cuddling and reading to your baby helps his or her brain to develop.
  • Your baby finds your voice soothing. When you read to your baby it helps her love books as much as she loves you.
  • Babies who hear more words develop richer language.
  • Babies listen attentively to songs, rhymes, and stories.

What kind of books do babies like?

When choosing books for babies, use sturdy board books, washable cloth books or bath books, or books that allow baby to explore using touch. Babies like books with bright pictures of real and familiar objects, especially photos of baby faces.

Read aloud tips for babies: Continue reading

Raising a Reader

RAR1In the last few months, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised national attention about the “word gap” – the fact that children from low-income homes hear 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers.

A lack of exposure to words means low-income children are more likely to enter kindergarten already behind, and may never catch up. One solution for the word gap can be found right here in the Bay Area.

Raising a Reader San Francisco and Alameda is working hard to reverse the word gap by providing an ongoing rotation of books to low-income toddlers and preschoolers, and teaching their parents the importance of reading to their children daily.

Research shows that over 60% of low-income children do not have a single book at home. Thanks to Raising a Reader, every week 11,000 low-income Bay Area children get a bright red bag filled with a set of new books to borrow. Within a year, participating children will have been exposed to over 100 different high-quality children’s books. Continue reading

Minding the Gap

gap1“I’ve learned that just playing with my daughter and talking to her more or just narrating my life as I’m going through the house helps us bond. I didn’t know that before,” said Tereesha, a single mother who’s been participating in classes at the West County First 5 Center for the last year.

Tereesha is her child’s first and most important teacher. And thanks to the First 5 Center, she’s relishing this role. But not all children have parents as engaged as Tereesha and that puts them at a serious disadvantage when they start kindergarten.

Research shows that by age four, children in middle and upper class families hear 30 million more words than children in low-income families.  A lack of exposure to words means children enter kindergarten with smaller vocabularies than higher income peers and may indicate a lack of enriching early learning opportunities at their most critical developmental time – their first three years of life.

Continue reading