Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Education Gap Widens- What Next?

First off, bear with me in this one.

I ran into this article on Facebook this week:

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say

By Published: February 9, 2012

“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

The gap is also growing in college. The University of Michigan study, by Susan M. Dynarski and Martha J. Bailey, looked at two generations of students, those born from 1961 to 1964 and those born from 1979 to 1982. By 1989, about one-third of the high-income students in the first generation had finished college; by 2007, more than half of the second generation had done so. By contrast, only 9 percent of the low-income students in the second generation had completed college by 2007, up only slightly from a 5 percent college completion rate by the first generation in 1989.

James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.

“Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role,” he said. “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”

Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, used survey data to show that affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes, their day care centers, or schools (anywhere from museums to shopping malls). By the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literacy activities, she found. 

..The problem is a puzzle, he said. “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.” 

I think about this gap a lot. I think about how central books, playing, and learning new words and concepts are in to daughter's small world. I think about how much time we spend at parks or museums, with friends, and traveling. I see how much of my daughter's knowledge and understanding of the world comes from the relationship she has between her parents, the books we read, and her small experiences.

I work with students that don't know English when they come to school, and our school is in a neighborhood with blight and poverty. Their parents are working hard to provide the best education for them, they want them to succeed, but the education gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

I see this reality daily when a 2nd grader can't name what a rake is when presented with a picture. Or, when a 4th graders doesn't know how to ask a basic question after reading a book (Yes, this is skilled honed from early childhood for many privileged children). These kids are trying their best, and their parents are too. But they need services and education earlier than kinder to help support their child's early development.

I want to give my child the best childhood. I want her to enjoy it in the moment, look back on it in fondness, and I also want her childhood to prepare her for her future. But I also want the same all of my students.

This article saddens me. It makes me think that everything that me and my colleagues are doing will never be enough. All low-income children need their own Harlem Children's Zone. I can't see any other way to close the gap.

These pictures excite me, but also make me realize how lucky our family is to have frequent experiences with books. I want every child to have these types of early literacy experiences with their loved ones:
Aunties tell a stories to the cousins after a family bday party. The book was in Swedish, so my sister made up a (rhyming) story for the kiddos.

This is what my daughter and her friend chose to to on their play date- snuggle in bed with dolly and books.

What is the solution to this gap?


  1. This playdate photo made me smile. Even though my boys LOVE books, I cannot imagine them ever having such a calm play date!

    1. =) Her friend is super mellow- he mellows her out! At certain points in the morning they were also running around the living room...so it was not all calm book reading!!

  2. Interesting article. I knew early literacy was important but didn't know about being in different places besides home and school made such a difference. But it makes sense how those experiences influence vocabulary and problem solving etc. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for stopping by Ms. Tonya! These small experiences build a child's background knowledge about the world, which, in turns, helps a child understand what they are reading and learning more fully. Like your blog!!


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