A report out Monday takes a new look at an old problem – getting kids ready, early on, for a lifetime of learning and success. The report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, is from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one of the funders of Voices for Illinois Children. Larry Joseph, director of Voices’ Fiscal Policy Center, says the critical years do not stop at age 3 or 5.
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“Roughly around age 8, roughly between third or fourth grade, is where kids reach an important turning point in their reading abilities,” says Joseph. “They shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’” The report, which spells out how few children of color or from poorer economic conditions are on par with their peers cognitively, has as its cornerstone recommendations: supporting parents, increasing access to early childhood education, and developing comprehensive integrated approaches to child development. Joseph says Illinois used to be a leader in early childhood education, but the number of children in state-funded pre-school is down sharply from where it was four years ago.