Research tells us that in contrast to their higher-income counterparts, low-income families tend to engage their children in fewer activities and opportunities that support the development of literacy skills. Thus, children from low-income families fall behind early — as young as age three, and once they fall behind in their literacy skills, they are less likely to catch up. The impact of low literacy is overwhelming; not just for the affected individuals but for society as a whole.
According to the National Institute for Literacy and the Center for Education Statistics, over 40 million adults in the United States are functionally illiterate. Many students enter kindergarten performing below their peers and remain behind as they move through grades. There is a well-established correlation between prior knowledge and reading comprehension, which means that students who fall behind are less likely to ever catch up. The differences are quantifiable as early as age three, highlighting the importance of providing a strong foundation for reading from birth through age five.
Three predictors of reading achievement that children learn before they get to school are:
1. The ability to recognize and name the letters of the alphabet.
2. General knowledge about print (such as understanding which is the front of the book and how to turn the pages).
3. Awareness of the sounds in words.
By promoting simple strategies, such as parents regularly reading aloud to children, the Little by Little Program addresses literacy failure head-on and helps to cultivate home literacy and improve school readiness for children from birth to age five in low-income families.