Many young children in immigrant families do not have good access to health and education services. To the extent that their life prospects are compromised as a result, these children-and the entire society-suffer. This article discusses the needs of children from birth to age eight, with a particular focus on the education needs of young children in immigrant families. This article first appeared in The Future of Children Vol. 14, #2 (Summer 2004).
Children’s skills in kindergarten and their achievement at the end of third grade are important predictors of their future life prospects. Although well-designed early education and after school programs hold promise to reduce ethnic group-related inequalities in children’s cognitive skills and social competence, children in immigrant families are less likely to participate in these programs than are children in native-born families. Availability and access are important factors: When pre-kindergarten programs are offered in public schools, Hispanic and Asian-American children are more likely to participate. Family literacy programs are a promising strategy for improving the language skills of children in immigrant families, as well as their parents.