The number of Latino children in preschool programs is lacking when compared to non-Hispanic whites, and according to a report published in The Future of Children, equal access to preschool among ethnicities could decrease the Hispanic-Non-Hispanic school readiness gap by as much as 26 percent. While preschool is important in the school readiness gap, report authors indicate the language spoken at home, parental proficiency in English and parental involvement also play a role.
“When parents primarily speak a language other than English at home or are not proficient in English themselves, their children tend to have less exposure to English (unless they receive support for English outside the home or are enrolled in good bilingual education programs) and thus tend to be at higher risk of scoring poorly in early literacy, particularly if assessed in English,” the report stated.
But educational gaps also vary when it comes to issues such as literacy and socioeconomic standing as children grow older.
Hispanics and school readiness gap
“Reading gaps for Hispanic children tend to close or stabilize after a few years, perhaps because of such out-of-school factors as strong families, less crime, or better peer group attitudes in Hispanic communities,” stated the report. “But black-white gaps and gaps between children from socioeconomically disadvantaged and more advantaged families tend to widen during the school years. An important challenge for future research is to understand why that is the case.”
Perhaps the most concerning finding in the report, say the authors, is that the socioeconomic literacy gap has widened. On average, students from high-income families have a five year head-start when it comes to literacy skills.
Drastic gaps later in the school are most likely to be remedied in the lower grades, especially preschool, the authors indicated, and parental involvement during those early years is critical. Parents are advised to enroll young children in tutoring and extracurricular educational activities, though the report authors acknowledge low-income families generally have less access to these resources.
“Although more work remains to be done in understanding the reasons for the black-white gap in early literacy, the evidence suggests that parenting is very important—just as it is in explaining socioeconomic literacy gaps,” wrote the authors.
If the school readiness gap is not properly addressed, NBC Latino reports study authors feel the labor force of the future will have much poorer literacy skills compared to the labor force of today.