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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New purpose for Ferdinand

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On one of my recent chats, a writer wondered why there's such a gap in SAT scores between children in schools in middle-class communities and those attending schools in low-income neighborhoods.

Hello?

It's not exactly a dirty little secret that America has an education gap that runs along economic lines. Jumpstart, an effort to fix the problem, is less well known.

In 1993 at Yale, 15 students paired with 15 preschoolers in a New Haven Head Start to provide mentoring and skill-building. Today, Jumpstart operates in 20 states and serves more than 14,000 preschoolers, 1,500 of them in Boston. These are just some of the 33 percent of America's children who start kindergaraten developmentally behind their peers, lagging in preliteracy and vocabularly skills.

"There is a visible relationship between family income and the amount of one-to-one, adult-child interaction that takes place in the home, interaction that is crucial to children's cerebral and emotional development," says Jumpstart president James Cleveland. These kids enter school with one-fourth of the vocabulary of their middle class peers, he says.

Thursday is Jumpstart's Read for the Record day. Here's how it works: The kick-off begins on the Today show with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira reading "The Story of Ferdinand" (yes, that Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf) throughout the show. Meanwhile, at sites around the country, an anticipated 200,000 people will read the same book at the same time, hoping to break the record for the largest shared reading experience and raising $1-million for Jumpstart in the process. In Boston, the largest reading site is the Haynes Early Education Center.

Jumpstart isn't inviting you to show up there. However, here's how you can participate.

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Posted by Barbara Meltz at 02:50 PM
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