September is National Literacy Month, and the Little By Little School Readiness Program is celebrating the great strides that we’ve made together in the field of early childhood literacy while acknowledging there is still much work to be done. The Little by Little School Readiness Program is an evidence-based early literacy program for young children (ages 0-5) from families engaged in the WIC program. The program provides free high-quality books, parental support, and guidance to those who need it most.
The importance of early literacy
Why is early literacy so critical? Early childhood literacy improves school readiness, helps children perform better as students, and leads to significantly better life outcomes in adulthood.
While the benefits of early literacy are many, the consequences of not engaging in early literacy activities can be detrimental to a child’s development and future quality of life. Typically children from families with lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to fall behind and stay behind, making it more difficult to succeed in the future.
Some Alarming Statistics:
- 61% of families with lower incomes have no children’s books in their homes.
- 37% of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifelong learning.
- 50% of children from communities facing barriers to progress enter first grade up to two years behind their peers.
- 68% of America’s fourth-graders read below proficiency level, and 82% of those children are from families with fewer resources available.
Breaking down systemic barriers
The Little By Little School Readiness Program works to reduce this socioeconomic disparity in early childhood literacy. Families who qualify for the program have typically had barriers to opportunity and may not be able to easily afford books, afterschool programs, tutors, or even the necessary one-on-one time for early childhood literacy development. A 2020 survey of program participants found that 66% of participants did not have access to children’s books from any other place besides the Little by Little Program. The same survey found that 89% of participants were not receiving child literacy information or developmental support from any other source than the program.
Investing in early literacy and our future leaders
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the residual effects required the Little by Little Program team to pivot from distributing books and developmental resources in-person to shipping books via mail and providing support remotely. While the Little by Little Program team continues to serve families with much-needed resources, the program has to bear the unexpected shipping costs. This year, the California State government has designated a one-time General Fund expenditure authority of $5 million for an early childhood literacy program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants through June 30, 2022, of which the Little By Little School Readiness Program will receive approximately $1.5 million. While this is undoubtedly a win for early childhood literacy and underserved families everywhere, much still needs to be done.
The Little By Little School Readiness Program is advancing the agenda to make early childhood literacy program funding an ongoing annual commitment at the California State government level. Ensuring all children in California have access to books and early literacy support will provide our children and future leaders with the tools they need to excel and build a better world for everyone.
Join us in the celebration
If you are a parent of young children, please join us in celebrating National Literacy Month by reading to your child every day or for at least 15 minutes three times per week. You can get the whole family involved in reading; visit the “for parents” page on lblreaders.org for ideas on how to get your child to develop a love of reading.
You can also join us in supporting early childhood literacy by donating to The Little By Little School Readiness Program and vocalizing your support of ongoing government funding for early childhood literacy to your state and local government.