Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, studies show. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.

Poverty compounds the problem: Students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers.

So what can be done? A good place to start is increasing assess to early childhood literacy education.

From day one, a child’s brain begins forming connections that build the foundation for all learning he or she will do later in life. In fact, 90% of children’s critical brain development occurs by age 5. Children who are read to, sung to, and talked to from a young age develop bigger vocabularies, become better readers, and are more likely to succeed in school.

At Lake Worth West Community Center, programs are offered to develop basic reading skills for children of all ages. They are free and open to the public.

Our center’s child development specialist Veronica Callejas explains the importance of early reading and what services are available to families so their children can grow up to become skillful readers.

1) Why is early childhood literacy so important?

Veronica Callejas: Early childhood literacy is the stepping-stone for children to prepare for reading and writing readiness. Research indicates that children who enter school with strong oral language skills learn to read and write with greater ease and tend to excel more in school than their peer with less knowledge of vocabulary and language structure.

Early childhood literacy develops vocabulary concepts, as children gain information about word meanings and pronunciation. These concepts are first introduced in speaking and understanding other’s speech. It also teaches children the structure of language and the concept that it communicates meaning/information. In turn, children can articulate their words and thoughts clearly.

2) Why is it particularly vital to new immigrants settling in our community?

Veronica Callejas: It is particularly vital for new immigrants to have these programs/workshops available because their children are growing up in households where they are hearing and speaking a non-English language, so that makes it harder for new student immigrants to learn.

Thus, these children have less exposure to English in their earliest years and will be challenged by their language skills upon entering school. Children, as well as their parents, need socio-emotional support. Early childhood education is tied to everything a child will face and accomplish in his or her future years, including social situations and practices.

 3) What kind of early literacy programs/workshops are offered at Lake Worth West Community Center and BRIDGES at Lake Worth West?

Veronica Callejas: We have many early literacy programs at the center, including:

Cradle to Crayons

Raise me up

Exploring our world

Reading club for kids

Storytime by Palm Beach County Library.

There’s also have programs in the homes of children between the ages of 2 and 4. These are offered by Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and PCHP (Parent Child Home Program).

Visit our activities calendar by clicking here to see the schedules for these and other upcoming programs and events. Or call us at 561-649-9600.

To help support our early literacy programs, please consider a donation to our center. Learn more here.