From Babbling Babies to Ready Readers: Minnesota and Massachusetts Link Early Childhood and Closing the Literacy Gap

Feb 09, 2011

By Christine Johnson-Staub

Under pressure to close achievement gaps, raise test scores, and increase graduation rates, state education officials are coming around to what early childhood development experts have known all along: the skills that lead to literacy and academic success are developed early.

Some states, including Massachusetts and Minnesota, are considering legislative and budget proposals that will intensify the focus on building reading skills starting at preschool, and aiming for reading proficiency by third grade. That, experts say, is the age by which if a child is not reading, they may have academic challenges that follow them throughout their school careers.

Given the abundance of research supporting the importance of the early childhood years in cognitive and language development, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's proposed 7-point education plan's emphasis on prekindergarten and kindergarten is welcome by early childhood advocates. A focus on building literacy skills among preschool-aged children is a great start, but to really close the achievement gap, policymakers and educators need to reach children from birth to age three and their families.

In Massachusetts, a legislative proposal championed by the advocacy group Strategies for Children takes early literacy one step further, creating a state Early Reading Council that promotes an age-appropriate focus on developing children's pre-reading and reading skills from birth. The council is tasked with developing state policy that will address the most crucial aspects of early literacy success: high quality and language-rich child care settings, effective professional development for child care providers, and parent engagement strategies that promote literacy-building habits in children's homes. READ MORE >>

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