Early Language and Literacy: A Window Slammed Shut
Yesterday, the Senate approved the same two-week extension of stopgap funding the House passed on Tuesday to keep the government operating until March 18th. This swift action may have closed a window of opportunity to reduce the language and literacy gap.
This continuing resolution contains $4 billion in cuts, with $890 million in cuts targeted at education. Of particular concern is the elimination of literacy funding through the Striving Readers and Even Start programs. These programs were included in the cuts because they are not contained in the President’s proposed 2012 budget. The real story is that while the President wouldn’t continue these specific programs, he would certainly continue efforts to improve literacy in our country.
Why is the loss of literacy funding a concern for babies? Last year, the President also proposed—and succeeded in getting Congress to direct much of this same funding toward—a new birth-through-12th grade approach that would ensure our children have the literacy skills to help them succeed in school. 15% of literacy funds would be directed at children from birth through prekindergarten age. For the first time, education policy is explicitly recognizing that literacy isn’t just about reading and writing in elementary school; rather, it is part of a process that begins at birth as babies learn to communicate and begin to acquire language.
Supporting parents and early childhood professionals in nurturing language and communication in the youngest children can open a window that widens a child’s learning horizons instead of the achievement gap. If Congress doesn’t revisit the need to fund literacy efforts in the continuing negotiations over 2011 funding, for many children that window will indeed be slammed shut.
Read our newest policy brief A Window to the World: Early Language and Literacy Development and watch the video, A Window to the World.
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