Last week we talked about the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report “The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success” and the low academic scores of American third-graders. Low income students are particularly at risk for poor outcomes. The Foundation provides three specific recommendations to improve outcomes for our children. The first recommendation is to “support parents as they care for their children”.
As early educators, one component of our work is parent education. We help parents understand things like health and safety, appropriate developmental expectations, learning activities, positive guidance, and nutrition. We encourage them to read to their children regularly and to provide their children with abundant opportunities for creative play.
Caring for children from low-income families may present an extra challenge. Struggling to make ends meet financially can make parenting much more difficult. If a person’s basic needs aren’t being met, the “bonus” stuff can kind of go by the wayside. Our challenge as educators is to try to provide as much support to the parent and child as we can, but also to be aware of community resources available to families. We can’t provide healthcare, housing, a job (usually) or food to our clients, but we can help them find those resources.
Within our program, we can recognize how some income-related challenges will appear in a learning situation. Many children from low-income families are significantly behind their peers in language and pre-reading skills, especially vocabulary development. Providing these children with more opportunities to learn basic skills and develop their vocabularies can help erase these deficits.
Next week we’ll talk about the recommendation to “improve access to quality early care and education, health care and other services”.