+ Executive Summary
+ Children's Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade
Organization of the Report
Literacy is an important construct that relates to kindergartners' and first-graders' early experiences with school. Literacy not only refers to children's familiarity with language and the printed word but also to their awareness of numbers, logic, and mathematical operations (National Research Council 1989). For example, one of the earliest steps to reading is the ability to understand that print has meaning (National Reading Panel 2000). This often refers to children's knowledge and awareness of the alphabet as represented in print. Most preschoolers are beginning to recognize some printed letters and words (Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children 1998). Frequently, children are most familiar with the letters in their own names. Children who can recognize some of the letters of the alphabet as they enter kindergarten are at an advantage (Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children 1998). We know from America's Kindergartners (West et al. 2000) that about two-thirds of children can recognize their letters as they enter kindergarten. The question is, does the ability to recognize letters at kindergarten entry relate to spring kindergarten and first grade achievement?
Reading to children is shown to have a positive effect on children's literacy outcomes (Denton, Reaney, and West 2001; Snow, Burns and Griffin 1998). Through experience with books, children gain important exposure to written language. They begin making connections between the spoken word and the printed word (Beck and Juel 1999). Policymakers contend that it is important to read to your child (Lyon 1999). America's Kindergartners (West et al. 2000) provided important information about the frequency with which the average parent reads to his/her young child. About 45 percent of parents report reading to their children every day, whereas 80 percent of parents report reading to their children at least three times a week. Do children who are read to at least three times a week perform better in kindergarten and first grade than children who are read to less than three times a week?
In addition to their emergent reading skills (i.e., recognizing letters) and exposure to literacy activities (i.e., being read to), children who understand their numbers and shapes are on the road to math literacy. It is important to note that math is not simply about numbers and numerical mathematical operations. Mathematics knowledge and skills also include the ability to draw inferences, see relationships and reason logically (National Research Council 1989). Consequently, young children who possess an understanding of numbers, shapes and a basic ability to conceptualize objects as they enter kindergarten may be at an advantage in terms of both their reading and mathematics learning. America's Kindergartners (West et al. 2000) revealed that the majority of children recognized basic numbers and shapes as they entered kindergarten and about three in five understood the concept of relative size (e.g., comparing nonstandard units of measure). Consequently, does the ability to recognize basic numbers and shapes and the mastery of the concept relative size relate to children's spring reading and mathematics achievement in kindergarten and first grade?