Hillary Rodham Clinton is helping initiate a public service campaign encouraging Hispanic families to read, sing and talk more to their young children so they’re better prepared for school.
About a quarter of all babies and toddlers in the U.S. are Latino, but these kids are half as likely to have family members read to them and a third less likely to have songs sung to them than white, non-Hispanic children, according to a recent report by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The effort is part of the “Too Small to Fail” campaign started last year by the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. A partner in the effort is Univision Communications Inc., a New York-based Spanish language media company that will run a series of public service announcements and news programs with segments focused on the topic.
Clinton was expected to participate in the campaign launch Tuesday at a bilingual Head Start program in East Harlem in New York. Clinton, a longtime supporter of early childhood programs, is a former secretary of state, first lady and senator of New York. There are rumors Hillary is considering another White House bid in 2016 and expects to make a decision later this year.
The focus of the campaign is simple: tackling what’s known as the “word gap” by encouraging Hispanic families to focus on these activities for at least 15 minutes daily.
Research published by the late University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in the 1990s highlighted the phenomenon in which children in professional families hear an average of 30 million more words by the time they are 4 than children of parents accepting public assistance, and 15 million more words than children from working-class families. Children with less exposure are more likely to start school behind their peers and not catch up.
Hispanic children are also more likely than their white peers to face other barriers such as poverty, frequent moves and hunger.
About a third of Hispanic children live with parents without a high school degree. Many of these parents don’t understand the power of reading, singing and playing with their young children, said Sandra Gutierrez, national program director of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, based in Los Angeles.
Others, particularly immigrants, are reluctant to do educational activities in Spanish because they want their children to learn English, but the enrichment in Spanish would be good for their children, said Delia Pompa, senior vice president for programs at National Council of La Raza. Both Gutierrez and Pompa serve on the “Too Small to Fail” advisory board.
A large percentage of U.S. children don’t have access to pre-school. In his State of the Union, President Barack Obama renewed his call for universal access to pre-K.
Parents, how often do you read to your children? If you don’t, it’s never to late, start tonight!