Nationwide, 5.8 million children, from birth to age five, are not on track to succeed when they begin kindergarten, as they lack the necessary cognitive skills, physical development, social and emotional development, language and emergent literacy, and/or learning mindsets required to succeed in a formal learning environment. Low-income children often enter kindergarten far behind their peers on more than one of these indicators, making it difficult for them to catch up and stay on track.
While socioeconomic status is the primary determinant of a child’s kindergarten readiness, race and ethnicity compound a low-income child’s disadvantage. Fortunately, a great deal is known about what it takes to ensure that a child is ready for kindergarten. Children from birth to age five should have positive, caring interactions and relationships with the adults in their lives—from home to community to school. This includes parents and other caregivers, as well as teachers. Adults in these settings should know a child’s needs and have the skills and capacity to help that child fully develop. Adults should also work together across all settings to ensure a cohesive, shared approach to supporting that child.
This concept paper, a result of Bridgespan’s recent research, “Billion Dollar Bets” to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American, explores potential approaches to ensuring every child arrives at kindergarten ready to learn. It focuses on investments in technology research and innovation as drivers to support more effective adult-child interactions across all ages and care settings. It also outlines the potential of six investments philanthropists could make to link diagnostics of early childhood development with the right suite of programs and services and to seed the market with technology-enabled tools that can increase effectiveness of adult-child interactions. Lastly, it quantifies the projected impact with estimates of the potential return on investment individuals and families would experience if a big bet were to be made improving early childhood development.
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