The neighbourhoods where young children live predict their reading
skills several years later, according to a University of B.C. study
released this week.

The study found that children who live in
wealthier neighbourhoods while in kindergarten did significantly better
on standardized tests in Grade 7 than children from less affluent
areas, regardless of where they lived when they wrote the same tests as

The overall trend suggests that it doesn’t matter
necessarily where you live in Grade 7. All that really matters is where
you live in kindergarten
,” said Jennifer Lloyd, author and lead
researcher with UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership.

really highlights that it’s this early neighbourhood environment that
matters more for understanding literacy than the current neighbourhood
context,” she said.

Lloyd based her study on results from the
Foundation Skills Assessment for 2,648 urban children, as well as
socioeconomic data about residential neighbourhoods.

The children
involved all attended kindergarten in either the Vancouver or Howe
Sound school district in the 1999-2000 school year.

were ranked on a scale according to a variety of factors that relate to
income, including the percentage of single-parent families, number of
adults with Grade 9 education or less, number of individuals graduating
from high school, the level of unemployment and the number of families
receiving income or social assistance.

“We used a broad degree of measures, not just how much money is coming into the neighbourhood,” Lloyd said.

study didn’t address the reasons behind its findings, but researchers
say it’s possible the results are tied to a child’s early access to
good schools, libraries, after-school programs and book stores.

Margaret Eaton, president of the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation, called the study results interesting, but not surprising.

“We do know that there are tremendous impacts on a community that impact children as well,” she said.

More important to a child’s long-term literacy skills, however, is his or her parents’ own reading skills.

require having parents who are interested in reading and literacy as
well,” Eaton said. “The schools can’t do it alone.”

Eaton said
it’s important adults create a culture of learning at home — before
their kids head into the classroom. That includes reading to children,
reciting the alphabet, looking at picture books, going to libraries and
book stores and talking with children to expand their vocabulary.

“Those kids who have those experiences score better [on literacy tests] as they go along in life,” she said.

said she hopes the study results, which were published this week in the
Health and Place journal, will prove interesting to more than just

“We are hoping that community leaders and members and
policy-makers alike can look at these findings and say, ‘Okay. Wow.
These neighbourhood environments really do matter … So, therefore, we
should really think carefully about how we allocate resources and how
we develop programs geared toward young children in particular,’” she


Source: Vancouver Sun –