Why Early Literacy?
Reading empowers children to discover their interests and develop the skills they need to pursue them.
Studies have shown that children in middle-income neighborhoods have an average of 13 developmentally appropriate books. In low-income neighborhoods, there is just 1 developmentally appropriate book for every 300 children.*
"Children who are behind in reading by third grade are four times as likely to dropout of high school as a child meeting their reading standards."
- Annie E. Casey Foundation
There are many reasons why books are scarce in under-resourced communities. New books can be expensive. Schools lack funding or space for their own libraries. Public libraries are facing funding cuts or are too far away. Additionally, as screen-time increases for young children, the need for books (experienced both independently and with trusted adults) to counterbalance the effects is more vital than ever.
The years before age five are when so much of a child's brain develops, and a scarcity of books during these years has devastating consequences. By the age of 4, children without books are already behind their peers, which means that intervening before their developmental trajectory is set is critical. If they are still behind by third grade, they are at risk of failing to graduate from high school. Reading increases language and critical thinking skills, builds vocabulary and phonemic awareness, and strengthens social and emotional learning. These personal, narrative, and language skills are vital to success in school and beyond.
* Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006, p. 31
Early intervention leads to lifelong benefits
By creating positive experiences with reading and learning from the earliest ages, we have a chance to mitigate the effects of early trauma where it exists and prevent the very real possibility that a child may never achieve minimum proficiency in school. When children grow up to be literate adults, they are better able to have agency over their lives, advocate for themselves, and create the world that they wish to see for themselves and others.