This is a momentous time for young children. As we close in on the end of 2014 and the beginning of a new year, I feel encouraged and excited by many of the initiatives and changes we are making as a country that I believe can lead to long term positive outcomes for young learners and for us all.
I believe we have a chance to close the "word gap" for every child, to make a new promise to them that this new world will have for them an abundance of opportunity right from the start. Research shows that by the time they start school, children from higher income backgrounds have heard 30 million more words than children who live in poverty. It’s no surprise that starting on such a profoundly uneven playing field leads to an academic achievement gap long beyond those early days. In fact, the word gap has been linked to disparities in income and productivity 20 and more years later. The good news is this: the word gap can be closed. And the better news is this: all across the country, sweeping changes are pushing that gap to extinction. And it is the most economical, most powerful way to bring about long term change that benefits us all.
As the White House convenes its Summit on Early Education on December 10th, let us both celebrate the changes happening right now to make early learning a priority and a possibility for every child, no matter the zip code, and let us together work to offer every single child the power, pleasure and profound joy that access to literacy brings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced recently that reading aloud every day is crucial to every child’s development. This powerful statement, made alongside their nutrition and health advice, was made in recognition of the proven benefits on brain development and vocabulary acquisition of reading aloud to a child. Imagine: this simple act is recognized by the medical community as a game changer, a life changer. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently launched a powerful new initiative dedicated toward a goal of universal Pre-K, and not just universal, but quality Pre-K, where teachers are valued for this important work and resources are dedicated to them and their young students. All across the country, states are marshalling their resources and funding to support our earliest learners. Scholastic’s "Open a World of Possible" initiative values and honors the role of parents and educators to make a huge difference in the lives of the youngest children as readers from the very earliest ages. This initiative is being felt across the blogosphere and is creating a true movement for change.
One of our nation’s historic songs, our national anthem, says: “Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light” and this call to action is about making an investment in those early lights. Let those lights be our youngest learners. We can all join into this extraordinary movement by visiting Scholastic’s "Open a World of Possible" site and learning how by reading, playing, singing to them right from the start, we too can join this great moment, closing the word gap for all children and making literacy a central part of all children's lives, as they enter a new world of possibility of their own.