Fewer Latino Children in Preschool, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Day Care & Education, Development: Toddlers & Preschoolers

latino child preschool picture

Without preschool, the education gap between Latinos and their peers starts earlier. Credit: Getty Images

Attendance in preschools for Latino tots lags far behind the national average, with Latino parents half as likely to enroll their kids in preschool as their white and African-American peers, a new study reported in Chicago Breaking News shows.

In Illinois, just over one in three Latino children attend preschool, a disparity that threatens to leave them behind their peers even before the start of kindergarten, the study's author, Bruce Fuller, director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California-Berkeley, says.

About 35 percent of Latino 4-year-olds attended some type of preschool, while 66 percent of white children and 54 percent of African American children enrolled, the findings show.

"If we put all our school reform eggs in the K-to-12 basket, it's going to be too late," Fuller tells Breaking News. He presented his is findings Nov. 16 at DePaul University during a conference sponsored by the New Journalism on Latino Children project.

The study shows that the educational disparities between Latino children and their peers are now starting at an earlier age, Fuller tells Breaking News.

Fuller and researchers tracked 380 Illinois children born in 2001 for nearly a decade, as part of a national study that included more than 10,000 children across the country. They monitored everything from the children's social and cognitive development to how often they read with their parents at home. As early as age 2, Latino children started to lag in their early literacy skills, such as recognizing words or turning to the title page of a children's book, according to the news report.

Fuller says the gap equates to about six months of kindergarten instruction.

Black community and faith-based groups have been pushing preschool since the beginning of Head Start programs some 40 years ago, while Illinois Latino communities have been slower to organize around the issue, Fuller tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

Also, for first-generation Latinos, "the tradition is not to send your child to a preschool. It's to rely on grandparents or an aunt who lives around the corner," he tells the newspaper.

Latino parents also may fear sending their children to strangers who do not speak their language, Reyna Hernandez of the Latino Policy Forum, tells the Sun-Times.

"Parents might also worry about questions on legal status," Hernandez says. "That subject is off-limits to preschools but may come up in applications for accompanying child care."


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