Early Childhood and School Readiness
Many poor children today enter school already behind, and once behind, few catch up. By third grade, poor children have vocabularies of about 4,000 words compared to 12,000 for middle class kids, and half the math and reading gap for high school seniors can be attributed to gaps at school entry.
Our vision for early childhood and school readiness is for all families to have high quality, comprehensive, culturally appropriate early childhood services and support—formal and informal—right in their own neighborhoods. These programs should also equip parents with the skills and knowledge they need to help their children succeed in school.
Our core objective has been to find the best examples of neighborhood programs that are designed to build the capacity of "informal" early childhood care providers such as family, friends, and neighbors. Models for improving this kind of care exist, but have not been well documented. We believe that identifying and disseminating exemplary strategies for improving this kind of care will accelerate progress in ensuring children in low-income communities enter school healthy and prepared to succeed.
Casey is now making 3rd grade reading achievement an increasingly important element of our place-based work, as well as a national imperative. We are working with numerous partners to help ensure that children are born healthy and develop on track; families have access to high quality early care and education services; schools, families and communities promote successful transitions to school; chronic absence is reduced; and children and their families experience success in the early elementary grades.