Early education outcomes are core social determinants of health, and literacy is critical for early learning. In their report in 2013 titled “Early Warning Confirmed”, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that “children with the lowest (3rd grade) reading scores account for 33% of all students, yet they account for 63% of all children who do not graduate from high school.”
In Central Oregon, Literacy rates at Kindergarten entry and in third grade show significant disparities between Latino children and their non-Latino peers. In the 16-17 school year, Latino children in Central Oregon scored significantly lower than their peers on letter names and sounds on the statewide kindergarten readiness assessment. Fewer than 33% of Latino students in our region meet or exceed literacy standards by third grade, compared with over 60% of their non-Latino peers. The data indicate the clear need in our region to support early literacy development among this population of children.
Through an evidence-based curriculum, the program invites parents and children ages 3-5 to work together on early literacy skills in Spanish for one to three years prior to entering Kindergarten. Programming takes place in the child’s future elementary school. This fosters connection between schools and parents, honors Spanish language and culture, and creates a safe transition to elementary school all while increasing student literacy, the primary goal. This program, called Juntos Aprendemos, has been implemented over the last 16 years through the Latino Network in Multnomah County, and they have seen significant increases in parent involvement and ultimately children’s literacy scores as a direct result. They are looking to expand this work across the state, and Central Oregon is the first pilot community in that expansion.