Effective Systems

Leveling the Playing Field: Supporting Immigrant Children from Birth to Eight


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.