As a high school English teacher, I often encounter students entering my class that are significantly below grade level. This means that in order for them to be able to access the reading and materials needed for success in my class, they need to be provided with significant scaffolds and support. I have students who enter my class with as low as a third-grade reading level who are expected to read, understand, and be able to write essays about novels like Things Fall Apart. These are students who needed support early on, did not receive it and have been pushed through the education system and promoted on to new grades each year without having mastered the skills the previous grade required. The teaching teams at my school site work endlessly to attempt to fill in the tremendous gaps students come in with and are able to achieve some success. The recurring thought in my mind as I encounter these realities every day is: early childhood education could have made all the difference.
Students in our home district of West Contra Costa, like students all around the country, are entering their kindergarten year already behind in academics. A year that should be filled with playtime, letter recognition, and early numeracy, is now filled with teachers working to fill in the gaps students come in with. In our district alone, 99% of students met the “early literacy benchmark” during the 2017 testing cycle compared to only 43% of students meeting the mark in the fall of kindergarten, according to the recent GO WCC Student Outcomes Report. The summer between preschool and kindergarten is crucial for brain development of our youngest students, and we need to provide more family education and resources around literacy acquisition and provide parents with ways they can help at home. The following are a couple of key resources for parents of young children that can be started as early as tonight!
- Read to your child for at least 20 minutes per night.
The research around this simple action has proven to have tremendous impact time and time again. Spending as little as 20 minutes reading to your child each night can help “you bond with them and model the love of reading, which will benefit them in school and throughout life,” according to the Read 20 Minutes initiative. You can borrow books from your local library or even your child’s classroom library with teacher permission. This simple habit will help foster a love of learning early on, and your student will reap the benefits in their classrooms as well.
- Research early childhood education options in your community.
There are many community resources available for parents of young children. Outreach efforts must be improved so more parents begin to take advantage of these opportunities. In the meantime, some simple research can point parents and families in the right direction. For example, First Five California is a great resource and offers families classes locally, as well as other amazing resources to make sure your little one gets a head start in their preparation for schooling. You can find your nearest First Five location here.
We need to bridge the gap that often exists between home and school for many families. Parents want to help, and our schools should be welcoming spaces for all families to learn how to continue supporting their students’ early academic success at home. Parents need to be made aware of the early education options available within the community, outreach efforts need to be improved and tailored to serve the communities we teach in. While policy and budgeting shifts need to occur in order to make this happen, young children should not lose out on valuable learning and development opportunities. La Comadre is proud to provide information to families in the communities we serve in order to maximize early academic and emotional development for our youngest scholars.
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