Two five-year-olds are about to race to the edge of the playground. When they line up, one starts 20 feet in front of the other. Who will reach the finish line first?
For some kids, this is what it is like to start kindergarten. They start school so far behind their peers, it’s hard to catch up.
Gaps in Readiness
All kids are different. Some kids will already be able to cut construction paper on a straight line. Others will still be working on just holding the scissors. Some won’t know the differences between “b” and “d,” and some will have mastered the whole alphabet. Some will be great at sharing toys, while others will need a little more convincing to give their friend a turn with the red crayon.
While some difference in capabilities is normal, there are certain literacy, numeracy, social-emotional, physical, and linguistic tools that all kids need to be active participants in kindergarten. Making sure all kids have these baseline skills on day one is about equity.
Studies from across the country show that students who are black, Hispanic, Native American and from families living below the poverty line are often developmentally and academically behind their peers who are white, Asian, and from affluent families.* The gap is not inherent to a child’s cultural, socioeconomic, or geographical background but rather a result of years of economic, housing, cultural and other policies that have disproportionately hurt people of color and who work low- and middle-skill jobs. These policies have created a gap in opportunities to learn for the children of these families.
Why Kindergarten Readiness Matters
Kindergarten is a formative learning year. It’s when children learn the skills that will help them adapt and succeed in later years of school. If more kids had the tools needed to be successful in school when they started kindergarten, they would have a greater opportunity to achieve success in high school and beyond.
And preparation for kindergarten begins at birth. The first five years of a child’s life have a huge impact on long-term outcomes. During this time the brain is forming the foundation for development and learning, including language. Children build the skills necessary for success in kindergarten through being spoken to, read to, and played with in a positive way.
United Way and Kindergarten Readiness
In support of Thrive2027 Goal 1, United Way of Greater Portland makes strategic investments to ensure children and families have quality early learning experiences to promote healthy development and school readiness. Last year, 293 children and infants attended a high-quality early childcare center funded by United Way of Greater Portland. In addition, 400 parents of infants and toddlers who received United Way supported education on how to support their child’s healthy growth and development during home visits reported that during a typical week, they read, told stories, and/or sang songs with their child every day.
By making it possible for all kindergartners to develop the tools they need in school, we help level the playing field.
Meet some of the children in Greater Portland who have been given a strong start with United Way of Greater Portland support:
- Nolan found his voice through Northeast Hearing and Speech.
- Faith was given a jump start at kindergarten through the Westbrook Children's Project.
- Rafaella's daughter was kept safe and secure through Youth & Family Outreach.
Support from generous community members like you make these stories possible. Please consider making an investment in high-quality early learning today.
*National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts on Knowledge and Skills of Young Children