A Q&A On Child Care and Early Learning

(This was first posted to the Child Care Aware of America blog, Early Directions.)

By Lynette M. Fraga, PH.D.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently spoke with NCLR about their perspective on child care and early learning for Latino children in the United States. In the spirit of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here is the first of a three-part blog Q&A with Peggy McLeod, NCLR Deputy VP for Education and Workforce Development.

Lynette: Set the stage for us. What is the state of child care and early education for Latino children in America today?

Peggy: The positive benefits of preschool appear to be stronger for Latino children, especially for children from homes where English is not spoken. Consider this: In 1991, about 24 percent of 3 to 4-year-old Latino children were enrolled in preschool compared to 37 percent of White and 42 percent of African-American children. In 2005, those numbers rose to 53 percent for Latinos compared with 70 percent of White and 69 percent of African-American children.

However, new data from 2005-2009 show a decline to 48 percent for Latino enrollment while attendance rates remained steady for both African-American and White 4 year-olds. Further, the 2009 data also shows that Latino children are now less likely to attend preschool part day or full day than their White counterparts. 

Lynette: To what do you attribute this decline and what other environmental factors are at play here?

Peggy: The vast majority of Latino children are U.S.-born to Latino and Latino immigrant families from throughout Mexico and Latin America. These families are primarily Spanish-speaking, and approximately 40 percent of the children are “linguistically isolated” – that is, no one over the age of 13 speaks English in the home.

Latino children and adults are disproportionately affected by a variety of health conditions including obesity, diabetes, and asthma. Latinos are more likely to lack health insurance than any other group, with fully one-third not having regular form of health care. The Urban Institute found that children in immigrant families are more likely than other children to lack access to regular medical care and when coupled with poverty, inadequate health care plays an increasingly important role in the development of young Latino children and their readiness to enter the educational system ready to learn.

Lynette: Tell us about the effects of these factors on Latino children and their long-term education.

Peggy: Children from Latino and immigrant families experience economic and social stresses beyond those of the typically poor family that leave them far behind their peers in the area of education. This year, the National Center for Education Statistics reported the achievement gap between non-English Language Learners and English Language Learner students was 36 points at the 4th-grade level.

The early gaps in academic and social skills tend to persist through the school years and those who score poorly at kindergarten entry are likely to do less well in school. For Latino children to succeed academically, it is critical that their parents have access to resources and services that will ensure their children are ready at entry into kindergarten and successfully reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Next up, Part II of our Q&A with NCLR – “Dual Language Learning: Benefits and Practice”

Lynette is the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America.

You might also be interested in: