Early Impact

Early Impact

The Challenge

The first eight years of a child’s life lay the groundwork for future success. The brain undergoes explosive growth in the first few years, developing 700 synapses per second, which is more than at any other point in life[i]. Stimulating experiences and caring relationships foster this growth and support children as they develop cognitively, socially, and emotionally into elementary school. Shaping and nurturing a child is an art, and all parents can use a little help to serve their kids the best they can. The effects of a solid, early foundation last into adulthood, improving the likelihood of excelling in reading and math, graduating from high school, and attending a four-year college[ii].

But the reality is that millions of American children lack a strong start, putting them behind from the very beginning.

The daily stresses of poverty can affect young children’s healthy development and the care their parents can provide[iii]. By age four, the average low-income child has heard 30 million fewer words than higher-income peers[iv]. And fewer than 10% of low-income kids can count to 20 in preschool, a skill that correlates to the strongest math achievement in 1st grade[v].

  • One in three children entering kindergarten is not ready academically, socially, or emotionally[vi].
  • By the time they begin school, children from low-income families tend to score significantly lower than their peers on reading and math achievement tests[vii].
  • Teachers consider non-cognitive and self-regulatory skills—such as the ability to pay attention, make decisions, and control emotions—that children develop in early childhood to be more important for school readiness than anything else[viii].
  • There are lasting effects of underdeveloped vocabularies in early childhood. By age 13, a child’s vocabulary gap can translate into a reading level 5 years below that of more affluent peers[ix].

How can we help the children who start behind to catch up? What can we do to ensure that all children are set up to succeed at home, at school, and in life?

2015 Strategy

The Foundation’s Early Impact portfolio aims to explore how to best support parents and caregivers in fulfilling their essential role in their children’s development. We aim to do this in two ways:

  • Improve the frequency and quality of parent-child interactions by expanding the supply and quality of parent supports
  • Better understand the current state of early childhood and parenting by supporting and learning from new research

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