Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Immediate Effects of a Program to Promote School Readiness in Low-Income Children: Results of a Pilot Study

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Immediate Effects of a Program to Promote School Readiness in Low-Income Children: Results of a Pilot Study

Article excerpt

Abstract

Children from low-income backgrounds demonstrate poorer school readiness skills than their higher-income peers. The Kids In Transition to School (KITS) Program was developed to increase early literacy, social, and self-regulatory skills among children with inadequate school readiness. In the present study, 39 families participated in a pilot efficacy trial conducted through a community collaboration to examine the feasibility and impact of the KITS program with families from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Participating families were demographically representative of the larger populations in the participating school districts. Children who received the intervention demonstrated significantly greater improvements in letter naming, initial sound fluency, and understanding of concepts about print than their peers who did not participate in the intervention as well as decreases in aggressive responses to peer provocation and increases in self-regulation skills. Results suggest that a brief, focused school readiness intervention is feasible to conduct with low-income families and may improve critical skills.

KEYWORDS: School Readiness, Low Income, Self-Regulation, Caregiver Involvement, Intervention

For decades it has been recognized that the gap in school achievement between socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged children is apparent as early as school entry (Entwistle, Alexander, & Olsen, 1997; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2000). Children from low SES backgrounds tend to enter school with poorer literacy and social skills than their peers (Foster, Lambert, Abbott-Shim, McCarty, & Franze, 2005; Hair, Halle, Terry-Humen, Lavelle, & Calkins, 2006). Deficits in school readiness increase risks for academic and social failures which, in turn, may lead to lower rates of educational and occupational attainment, and higher rates of drug use, delinquency, and mental health difficulties (e.g., Fothergill et al., 2008; Shochet, Dadds, Ham, & Montague, 2006; Wiesner & Windle, 2004). To prevent these outcomes, researchers have attempted to improve school readiness skills through a number of early childhood learning interventions, most notably the Chicago Parent--Child Centers (Reynolds & Temple, 2008), the Abecedarian Project (Ramey & Ramey, 2004), and Head Start (Zigler, 1987). The effects of such programs have generally been positive and, in some cases, have persisted into adolescence and adulthood (Campbell et al., 2008; Ou & Reynolds, 2008; Zigler & Styfco, 2010).

School readiness interventions that have demonstrated impacts into adolescence and adulthood are typically intensive and long term (i.e., 1 year or more), leading some researchers to assert that longer-term interventions might be required to prevent behavioral and academic problems (Greenberg, Domitrovich, & Bumbarger, 2001). However, not all economically disadvantaged children can take full advantage of long-term interventions due to the high mobility of this population (Scanlon & Devine, 2001). Additionally, state spending on pre-kindergarten programs has recently declined (Barnett, Epstein, Friedman, Sansanelli, & Hustedt, 2009). Lack of funding limits the available slots for eligible children in programs, leaving some families without these services (Goerge, Dills, Yang, Wasserman, & Clary, 2007). For example, Head Start serves fewer than 60% of all eligible children nationally (Barnett et al., 2009).

Further, few of these programs operate during the summer. Over the course of the summer, disadvantaged children might lose reading and math skills (Borman, Benson, & Overman, 2005) or fail to gain skills at the same rate as their more advantaged peers (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2001; Downey, von Hippel, & Broh, 2004). The effects of this "summer setback" become cumulative, widening the achievement gap across the school years (Alexander et al. …

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