We believe that when children are not read to before they start school, it is probable that they will never catch up. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of these children come from families of inter-generational poverty, where a book is low on the list of priorities. Research shows that by age three, a child in poverty hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a middle-income home. Not only do they have smaller vocabularies, these children lack the confidence and competence to compete with their classmates who have spent their pre-school years nose-deep in books.
A book can change everything. In order to increase the success of our collective future, we partnered with the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program at two Lehigh Valley, PA locations: Casa Guadalupe in Allentown and Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem. The idea was simple: donate custom libraries and give books to children aged birth to five at every quarterly visit. These books foster a life-long love of reading that will close educational gaps and open future doors of opportunity for these families.
Children whose families are enrolled in the WIC program are most likely to not be enrolled in traditional daycare systems, which inhibits their level of school readiness.1 The Birth-2-Five Program aims to educate parents on the importance of early intervention literacy. A lack of reading aloud at home is a major contributor to the “30 million word gap,” as mentioned above, between low-income and middle-income children.2 Furthermore, simply having books in the home can have a significantly larger effect on a child’s educational attainment than even the parents’ educational levels.3
“When our parents get handed a free book from Judith’s Reading Room they understand that this small gift has the potential to take their child out of the vicious cycle of poverty. They are able to escape to another world and forget about their problems for a short period of time. Without Judith’s Reading Room a lot of our families and children would not have access to books or have books be read to them.”
–Dawn Bush, WIC Clinic Coordinator, Casa Guadalupe
During the summer of 2013, we conducted qualitative research to observe the reading skill and interest levels of children in the “Birth-2-Five” Program. In 51 hours, we read aloud to and observed 92 children, noting their behaviors throughout each interaction. What we found was that though children showed an interest in books, a majority of children did not possess all of the foundational skills to set them up for academic success. Such results emphasize the importance of programs like the “Birth-2-Five” program to prepare children to start kindergarten ready to learn.
- Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being. By Katherine K. Wallman, et al. N.p., 1997. http://childstats.gov/pdf/ac2013/ac_13.pdf
- Hart, Betty, and Todd R. Risley. “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.” American Educator Spring (2003): 4-9. http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2003/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf
- University of Nevada, Reno. “Books in home as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2010.www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100520213116.htm