While leafing through a recent copy of The Stanwood-Camano Crab Cracker, looking for something to do in the greater Stanwood metropolitan area, one event caught my eye:
Ready Reader: Preschool Storytime; 9:30AM or 10:30AM at Stanwood Library. Let imaginations run wild with fun books, sing-along songs, and creative activities that prepare young minds for the adventures of reading. Playtime or craft may follow. Ages 3 to 5 years. Caregiver required.
There it was: the Achievement Gap, in all its ugliness, hiding beneath something as sweet and innocuous as a preschool story hour. But when you think about it, the implications are clear: if you want your child to get ahead – and stay ahead – then you need to get her down to the Stanwood Library on Wednesday mornings. This is what we tell ourselves.
It's certainly what my wife and I told each other. She interrupted her career for ten years and took our children to every story hour, tune-time and kiddy-exercise class in town. And when nothing was scheduled, she read to them or took them to the zoo. Why? For the same reasons you did all those things: she wanted to give our kids every advantage so that they’d be successful in school and beyond.
We talk a good game in this country, but we really don’t want a level playing field. We’d rather play downhill. We want to get ahead and we want our children to get ahead. We don’t want our children to enter school and then learn how to read, we want them to enter school knowing how to read. And if possible, we’d prefer that they enter a school in which everyone knows how to read. That’s the American way. It’s probably the French way, the Mexican way and the Ukrainian way too, for all I know, but it’s definitely the way we do it here.
So we tell young parents to engage their children in all these learning activities. And we tell them that if they do, it will help their children be successful. We also tell them that if they don’t, their children risk becoming unsuccessful. Later on, of course, those prophecies pan out. The Ready Readers get the best grades, go to the best colleges and grow up to get the best jobs, and the kids whose parents couldn’t read the Crab Cracker, or didn’t know where the Stanwood Library was, or simply didn’t have time off on Wednesday mornings fell behind. Just like we said they would.