Using information from the longitudinal study of early care and youth development, researchers found that children who spent more time in high-quality child care in the first five years of their lives had better math and reading scores in middle childhood. Researchers also found that low-income children who attended high-quality child care programs before the age of five performed similarly to their affluent peers. These findings have implications for the role of child care in the creation of anti-poverty policies.
As children head back to school and attention turns to strategies for boosting reading and math achievement for low-income youth, a new study says the quality of early child care may play a role.
The study, by researchers at Boston College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Samford University, is published in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development.
The researchers looked at reading and math achievement of more than 1,300 children in middle childhood from economic backgrounds ranging from poor to affluent. They used information from the longitudinal Study of Early Care and Youth Development, which was carried out under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Children who spent more time in high-quality (that is, above-average) child care in the first five years of their lives had better reading and math scores, the researchers found. This was especially true for low-income children; in fact, their scores were similar to those of affluent children, even after taking into account a variety of family factors, including parents' education and intelligence.
"In large part, our results can be explained by the fact that low-income children who attended higher-quality child care developed reading and math skills in early childhood that likely prepared them for later achievement in middle childhood," according to Eric Dearing, associate professor of applied developmental psychology at Boston College and the study's lead author. "These results give added credence to the central role that higher-quality child care should play in future discussions on anti-poverty policy."
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