Cherish Every Child, the Foundation's early childhood initiative, began as a city-wide initiative focused on improving the lives of children from birth through age five, and their families, in Springfield, Massachusetts, by helping to ensure that they enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
CHECH brought all members of the community together, including parents, elected and appointed officials, business leaders, the faith community, and organizations serving children and families, and they adopted this shared vision for Springfield's youngest children: a healthy and safe childhood that prepares them to enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life. The initiative worked by:
- Convening and working on collaborative initiatives relevant to the early childhood field
- Sharing information and research in relevant public policy areas, with an emphasis on state public policies that impact their physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive development
- Raising awareness of the status of issues facing very young children and their families and of the economic return on investment in early childhood education
- Grantmaking for programs aligned with initiative's goals
READ! Reading Success by 4th Grade
The Foundation's belief in using data to drive decision-making has resulted in a more focused initiative to improve reading proficiency for 3rd graders. Driven by data revealing poor performance on the 3rd grade MCAS in Springfield and by research indicating that children who are read to and spoken to at an early age do better in school and in life, Cherish Every Child launched the Reading Success by 4th Grade (RS4G) initiative in 2009. At that time, two-thirds of Springfield's 3rd graders were not reading proficiently. Statistics show that catching up in later years is difficult for these children. CHECH convened community leaders and early literacy experts who worked for over a year to develop a shared goal of 80% of Springfield's children reading proficiently by 2016 and a recommended set of strategies to get to the goal in Reading Success by 4th Grade: Blueprint for Springfield. RS4G is also guided by the recommendations developed by Harvard Graduate School of Education researcher Dr. Nonie Lesaux and her team, contained in Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success.
Why Reading is Important
Researchers tell us that kids who enter kindergarten with poor early reading skills are usually poor readers in first grade and often remain poor readers all the way through high school.
- Children's vocabulary in kindergarten correlates strongly with their 10th grade reading scores
- Three quarters of children who are struggling readers by fourth grade will continue to struggle
- Ten to fifteen percent of kids with serious reading problems will drop out of high school
The Big Gap in Low-Income Households
There is also a big gap between kids from low-income households and those from middle- to high-income households.
- First graders from lower-income families have a vocabulary half the size of kids from higher-income families.
- By age 3, kids in low-income homes will have heard 10 million words. Those in middle and high-income homes will have heard 30 million words.
- A child from a middle-income family will usually enter first grade with about 1,000 hours of reading picture books with a parent or other adult. A child from a low-income family will average less than 100 hours.