The unfortunate fact is that there are a staggering number of children living in poverty within the United States. The latest U.S. Census data from 2010 shows that more than one-fifth of children lived in poverty conditions. Among minorities, the statistics are even more shocking. Nearly 40% of black children and 35% of Hispanic children lived below the federal poverty line that year.
There are also definitive connections between children living in poverty and lower academic performance. Children from families living in poverty are twice as likely to repeat a grade and are nearly 10 times as likely to drop out of school.
There may be a way to combat these statistics, though: local preschool programs. Currently, approximately 45.6% of children living below the federal poverty level are enrolled in preschool. While this percentage is not nearly enough, studies have found that the benefits of preschool are particularly pronounced for these at-risk youths.
At-risk and disadvantaged children show the most gains in preschool
While children of all abilities and backgrounds can experience the benefits of preschool, these advantages may make a bigger impact on children who are living in poverty. A recently published report, “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,” states: “Researchers who study pre-K education often find that children who have had early experiences of economic scarcity and insecurity gain more from these programs than their more advantaged peers.”
In other words, the sense of stability, routine, belonging, and safety that an academic preschool curriculum can provide can have a more profound effect on these children than on other students. In many ways, the benefits of preschool extend beyond grade school readiness and can provide valuable emotional support and important tools for these young students.
Dual-language learners benefit highly from early education
Statistically speaking, many children who are dual-language learners come from low-income households. They may also have underdeveloped skills in pre-literacy and pre-math as compared to their peers, but there’s evidence that their ability to learn two languages at once strengthens their minds considerably. That means that while these students may be behind in certain areas, they often possess amazing abilities to learn. Involvement in preschool programs can allow these students to progress even faster than others. These students are able to switch focus between tasks and learn new information quickly. Preschool can allow them to excel and live up to their potential.
Preschool programs give at-risk youth the tools to succeed in life
Of course, preschool programs can act as the building blocks for a high quality education. And having a great education often results in a successful and happy life. Adults who participated in early childhood education programs display lower crime rates and higher median income rates. They’re also more likely to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. These adults also show more highly developed social skills. Astoundingly, these benefits continue to grow as former preschool students grow up. Ultimately, pursuing an education from an early age creates well-rounded, well-adjusted adults, which is just one way to combat poverty.
There’s no doubt that the benefits of preschool are multifaceted. In the short term, preschool programs can help form young minds and get these students ready for grade school. But in the long term, preschool can help set children — particularly those who are economically vulnerable — on the right path to lead a successful life.