Office of Science and Technology Policy Spotlights the Importance of Early Literacy

Editor’s Note: This guest blog was written by Child Care Aware of America staff member Michelle McCready. Michelle is our Director of Public Policy, a working mother to her young son, Aiden, and a dedicated advocate for child care policy.

Yesterday Child Care Aware of America joined the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to highlight early literacy challenges and successes in communities across the country and share best practices and lessons learned. The word gap refers to children in low income communities starting school with 30 million less words  than their peers of higher socioeconomic status. The day consisted of advocates, led by Too Small to Fail, alongside top researchers and scientists, as well as federal and local policymakers, discussing the importance of creating a strong literacy foundation for all children.

Panelists

This strong literacy foundation helps prepare students for kindergarten and  sets children up for better outcomes throughout their life. This foundation also supports a workforce needed to compete in the global economy and create a prosperous future for generations to come. In the first three years of life early language and rich literacy experiences are especially important. As research has proven, the brain undergoes its most dramatic development during this time as children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. As a mother of a 19 month-old son, I get to witness this dramatic development every day. On our ride home from child care, I talk, read, and sing with him and see how his vocabulary is exponentially blossoming.

But it’s not just my son. On a typical day more than 11 million children under age 5 spend an average of 35 hours a week in the care of someone other than their mother. About one-quarter of these children are in multiple child care arrangements. In these settings, children are naturally communicating with their caregivers on what they think, feel and are experiencing. This “conversational duet” not only promotes language skills, but also critical thinking skills, and strong social and emotional development.

Speaking and honoring home language is also critical.  Children  need to have lots of fun and meaningful chances to talk, read, and pretend-write in their home language. Each of the opportunities to interact build skills that will help all children be prepared for a successful life.

Make sure to visit ChildCareAware.org to get more information on how you and your child’s caregiver can best build your child’s early reading and writing skills. A call to your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) can give you additional information about literacy resources.

Also, make sure to check out what some of our coalition partners are doing: Too Small to Fail’s Talk, Read, Sing Campaign http://talkreadsing.org/. And ZERO TO THREE’s new web portal, Beyond the Word Gap http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/beyond-the-word-gap/, which offers multimedia resources to help parents, professionals, and policymakers to support early language and literacy.

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Early literacy programs give young children a bright start

Learn more about what Nemours BrightStart! is doing to get children ready to read in this guest blog post from Caroline Schierle. Caroline and her colleague Kerry Eldred will present at the 2014 Symposium

If a child is not reading on grade level by the end of first grade, there is only a 10 percent chance he will read on grade level in fourth grade. This is a frightening statistic considering most children with reading difficulties are not identified until the second or third grade.

But there is good news. The vision of Nemours BrightStart! (NBS!) is that every child becomes a reader. Through innovative programs, research, advocacy, leadership and partnerships, NBS! works to promote reading success and prevent reading failure in children.

NBS! is rooted in the belief that early identification of reading difficulties is paramount. Children are most likely to become successful readers when they begin kindergarten with strong reading readiness skills. Pre-kindergarten is an ideal time to identify at-risk children and provide early intervention when children’s brains are adaptable and responsive. Further, providing exposure to important early literacy skills at a young age is easier and more economical than paying for remedial services if a child has fallen behind later in school.

Research has shown that the NBS! program significantly improves early literacy skills of pre-kindergarteners at risk for reading failure, with two-thirds of children who receive the small-group, multi-sensory instruction moving to the typical range in their reading readiness skills. Due to its success, the program has expanded to reach more children at-risk for reading failure and is now in child care centers and schools across 18 states, including Florida, California, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia.

In addition to providing classroom instruction and training teachers across the country to implement the program in their own classrooms, NBS! provides free early literacy screenings for children in the community where early learning experts explain to parents what their children’s scores mean about their level of early literacy skills.

NBS! recognizes the importance of parents as a child’s first teacher. NBS! is currently developing and piloting informational workshops for parents to share knowledge of child development, shared book reading techniques, and ideas for everyday learning activities. NBS! is also wrapping up a two-year research study examining the effectiveness of training parents how to do early literacy activities with their children at home.

For more information, visit the NBS! website at http://www.nemours.org/service/health/brightstart.html.

Caroline Schierle is a Research and Evaluation Specialist at Nemours BrightStart! where she manages data from ongoing projects within Jacksonville, FL. Prior to working as a researcher, she worked one-on-one with young adults with learning disabilities. As a result of this rewarding work combined with her educational background with degrees in Sociology and Psychology, she has a unique perspective and drive to understand and improve early childhood education through both research and applied best practices.

Nemours BrightStart! researches, develops and offers evidence-based tools targeting young children at risk for reading failure. The goal of NBS! is to effectively instruct children at the very beginning of their reading journey to ensure long-term reading success. Nemours BrightStart! helps parents, educators, health care professionals and community leaders understand key concepts and actions needed to promote reading success for all children through a variety of specific tools, services and resources.

Summer Reading Matters

Fact: Reading even five books is enough to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores over the summer.

That’s right – five books!

It’s easy to slip into summer without thinking about school. After all, it’s vacation time. But there are a few easy ways to work in a book. Or five.

Read as a Family
Goodnight MoonMy favorite children’s book is the classic, Goodnight Moon. I bought if for my son, my firstborn. And though he’s now 12, it still sits in our house, worn from many readings (and a few teething chews).

My daughter and I still read together every night, too. She’s 10. Sometimes we read an entry from one of my journals from when I was young. She sees my childhood handwriting and suddenly my words have meaning to her.

Steal our favorites
I asked our staff to share their favorites, and why. Here’s what they said:

“Growing up one of my favorite books was The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I remember being fascinated by all the predicaments he found himself in.  Ultimately he learned some lessons along the way! I also loved the drawings and pictures.”
Debbie Taylor, Regional Military Child Care Liaison

“Three Little Kittens. Kittens who get to eat pie when their lost mittens are found. What’s not to like?”
Theresa Klisz, Director, Editorial Services

“My little brother and I would to beg to hear Time for Bed by Mem Fox just one more time before bed. There’s a page where the mother goose says to her gosling, ‘Go to sleep little goose, little goose. The stars are out and on the loose!’ And, while book itself has a tender closeness to it, there was a beauty about reading that together and imagining the stars before going to sleep.”
Audrey Williams, Communications and Policy Intern

Ask the experts
There are lots of resources to explore if you want to make developmentally appropriate picks for your children. You can always start with your child’s teacher. Ask what books are going to challenge your young reader, but also keep reading enjoyable. Also try the American Library Association Library Services to Children. Here’s their list of  2013 Notable Children’s Books.

What’s your favorite children’s book? We’d love to hear it. Tweet the title to us @usachildcare with hashtag #childhoodbook

More Resources
School Readiness Fact sheets
Source: Child Care Aware of America

Let’s Read. Let’s Move.
Source: Corporation for National and Community Service

Best Children’s Books by Age
Source: Parents.com

Happy Reading!