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Addressing the Literacy Achievement Gap, Starting in Preschool

By Bweikia Foster Steen
 | Jun 22, 2017
Prison to Preschool

Preschool should be a time of learning through varied experiences that expose all children to rich content as well as integrated and relevant curriculum. Preschool should not be a period of frustration, where fears are created and abound in young minds and where their cries for help are misconstrued as acts of defiance. However, children of color, especially boys, often experience repeated failure during the preschool years. Thus, the achievement gap starts early.

We can combat this early-onset issue by following the three Es:

  • Experience and expose. Knowledge is gained through experience and exposure—not by individual deficits. Provide varied and relevant experiences, time and materials to practice concepts, and repeated exposure to content. Expose all children to quality children’s books that cover all genres, include rich vocabulary, and are inclusive of unique experiences, talents, and interests.   
  • Engage and integrate. Content is retained and stored in long-term memory when it is relevant, engaging, and interesting. Incorporate hands-on activities, technology, movement, and art within literacy instruction. This will ensure that the curriculum is inclusive of different learning styles and interests.
  • Evaluate and inform. Develop an understanding about developmentally and individually appropriate expectations and standards for each age group. This understanding aids in purposefully evaluating each child’s strengths and weaknesses and informs planning and instruction to develop intentional literacy experiences.   

Bweikia Steen

Bweikia Foster Steen is an associate professor and the director of the early childhood programs at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. Her research deals with meeting the social–emotional and academic needs of young children of color and advocating for their families. 

Bweikia Foster Steen will present a workshop titled “Starting Young: Countering the Preschool to Prison Pipeline With Engaging Literacy Instruction at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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