Interesting Statistics about Preschoolers and Literacy

There are some really interesting statistics out there about educating preschoolers in America.  Did you know that enrollment for preschoolers has increased 679% between 1985 and 2008?  In 1985 0.2 million preschoolers were enrolled in school in the USA while in 2008 this had increased to 1.2 million! But in reality, still only a little over half of all 3-4 year olds are in school (52% in 2009) (Digest of Education Statistics, 2010)  Anyway, I thought you might find those numbers as interesting as I do. So perhaps you, like me, have chosen to keep your preschooler home.

We’ve all heard that one of the most important things you can do for your preschooler is to spend lots of time reading aloud to him/her. Jim Trelease did a fabulous job explaining why in his book, The Read Aloud Handbook. First of all, reading to your child increases her background knowledge taking her places you can’t get to in everyday life and exposing her to new ideas. It also drastically increases her vocabulary and comprehension.  When you talk to your child, you use somewhere between 9 and 11 rare words for every thousand spoken. When you read a children’s book to your child, that number increases to 30 per thousand. In other words, there are nearly three times more rare words in a child’s picture book than in everyday conversation.*(Trelease, p. 16) Trelease goes on to say that by the age of four,  a child in a language rich environment may have heard up to 32 million more words than other children of the same age. That accounts for a huge gap in reading readiness in kindergarten. A New York Times article a couple of weeks (Feb. 9, 2012) ago points out that children from high income households spend up to 400 more hours in literacy activities. Also children of affluent parents spend much more time (1,300 more hours) taking their kids out to places like museums, the mall and so forth (visiting places other than their homes, day cares or schools). Again this is important because it helps expand children’s vocabulary base.

The good news for homeschoolers is that income level has little impact on their academic achievement scores. Here are the income levels and standardized test results for homeschoolers in a study by the HSDLA

$34,999 or less—85th percentile

$35,000–$49,999—86th percentile

$50,000–$69,999—86th percentile

$70,000 or more—89th percentile

[The national average for public school students is at the 50th percentile.] As you can see, those homeschooled students whose parents make a low wage do almost as well on standardized tests than those with parents from higher income brackets.

The lesson I’ve taken from all this is read to your little one — and then read some more! I’ve found it useful to have books strewn on the kitchen table, near the couch, next to ED’s bed and in our main homeschooling area.  And, when she says “Mommy read this to me!” I try my best to STOP, put things on hold and read her that book! Among other things, ED and I have been reading some classic fairy tales together (though the older kids almost always join in too!).  Each morning we reading a new story from The Treasury of Classic Children’s Stories. If you don’t already have a book like this, I sure recommend this one. The illustrations are beautiful!

We also have a bag of books (Hello Readers and the like that I got off ebay) stashed in the car.  The kids read through those as we head out to do errands or head off to activities.

We also listen to a lot of stories in the car.  If you haven’t heard of Storynory — you have to check it out!  Natasha has been putting up fairy tales, Greek myths and lots of other stories that you can download onto a CD or onto your Ipod for the kids to listen to.  The kids LOVE these stories and we listen to them in the car all the time.  They are just the perfect length (5-20 minutes) for our treks out and about. Often the kids will beg to listen to finish stories once we return home! So again, visit Storynory for free audio stories for kids.

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