Recently, I came across an interesting article that discussed the importance of early childhood education for children in poverty. Among other things, it noted that the lack of adequate stimuli is a determining factor in readiness for kindergarten. The absence of reading time between parents and children, for example, creates a significant language gap on vocabulary.
It is undeniable the importance of early childhood education to children in poverty. They need access to qualified professionals who can assess and meet their needs for growth and development. But that is just part of the problem. Because these families don't make enough, they rely on improvised child care assistance (a neighbor's house, for example) to go to work. The child winds up under the care of someone who isn't prepared to offer adequate stimuli and identify developmental deficits, which deepens the problem.
The article also mentions that many times the language deficit is a result of hearing impairment. Early screening allows for immediate correction of problems, which helps to prevent learning issues. But for children living in poverty, they say, these interventions are hard to find. When found, they may not be affordable. And without that, the child's overall development can be compromised. When they start kindergarten, they have a lot of catching up to do.
Now, let's look at the reverse side of this coin. Even though the discussion focuses on the importance of reading to the child to foster cognition and bonding, there are other ways to do it. The practice of reading to infants isn't as common in other countries as it is in the US. Abroad people use other resources to promote vocabulary and bonding, such as talking to the child. Actually, in some cases talking may be easier than reading, because these parents may be illiterate. If they can't read and they believe that that's the only way to provide stimulation, they may give up before trying something else. Also, a healthy attachment is a significant factor in learning and development. Therefore, it's important to find different forms of bonding, other than through reading. Talking also can work wonders on that front.
But what about those parents who have to work and don't spend their days with their children? Well, here is where the improvised child care space at a neighbor's house can be helpful. If the person watching over the child is loving and attentive, they will meet the child's needs for love and attention. And that may help mend some deficits created by the lack of access to better resources.
Finally, the article mentions that parents' involvement is mandatory to foster development. But the truth is that, during the early years of a child's life, parents' involvement is critical for anything you want to accomplish with a child.
There are a few programs that try to create more inclusion to destitute children. They provide early childhood health assessments (vision and hearing). They also strive to offer them the necessary exposure to language. And that is great! But we should also develop more programs focused on helping the families. For example, they need a safe place to leave their children while they attend to work. Parents need a space where the child can be cared for by educated professionals. The child needs a place where they will receive food, love, and stimulation to foster emotional and physical growth. They could be the generation that will turn their family's history around. As we once had those who were the first in their families to attend college, these could be the ones to get their families out of poverty. Granting them proper care and education during their early years could make a huge impact, socially and culturally. It could turn a page in our history.