Clinton encourages reading in Hispanic families

2014-02-04 10:05
Hillary Clinton speaks in New Orleans. Clinton is helping initiate a public service campaign encouraging Hispanic families to read, sing and talk more to their young children so they’re better prepared for school. (File, AP)

Hillary Clinton speaks in New Orleans. Clinton is helping initiate a public service campaign encouraging Hispanic families to read, sing and talk more to their young children so they’re better prepared for school. (File, AP)

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Washington - Hillary Rodham Clinton is helping initiate a public service campaign encouraging Hispanic families to read, sing and talk more to their young children so they're better prepared for school.

About a quarter of all babies and toddlers in the US are Hispanic, but these kids are half as likely to have family members read to them and a third less likely to have songs sung to them than white, non-Latino children, according to a recent report by the Robert R McCormick Foundation.

The effort is part of the "Too Small to Fail" campaign started last year by the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, a San Francisco-based non-profit.

A partner in the effort is Univision Communications, a New York-based Spanish language network that will run a series of public service announcements and news programmes with segments focused on the topic.

Clinton was expected to participate in the campaign launch on Tuesday at a bilingual Head Start programme in East Harlem in New York. Clinton, a long-time supporter of early childhood programmes, is a former secretary of state, first lady and senator of New York.

She is considering another White House bid in 2016 and expects to make a decision later this year.

The focus is simple: tackling what's known as the "word gap" by encouraging Hispanic families to focus on these activities for at least 15 minutes daily.

‘Too small to fail’

Research published by the late University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in the '90s highlighted the phenomenon in which children in professional families hear an average of 30 million more words by the time they were 4 than children of parents accepting public assistance, and 15 million more words than children from working-class families.

Children with less exposure are more likely to start school behind their peers and not catch up.

Hispanic children are also more likely than their white peers to face other barriers such as poverty, frequent moves and hunger.

About a third of Hispanic children live with parents without a high school degree. Many of these parents don't understand the power of reading, singing and playing with their young children, said Sandra Gutierrez, national programme director of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, based in Los Angeles.

Others, particularly immigrants, are reluctant to do educational activities in Spanish because they want their children to learn English, but the enrichment in Spanish would be good for their children, said Delia Pompa, senior vice president for programmes at National Council of La Raza. Both Gutierrez and Pompa serve on the "Too Small to Fail" advisory board.

Pascuala Natalia Leal, aged 25, a mother of three who immigrated from Mexico as a young girl, said she thinks some low-income parents feel inadequate to teach the kids. At the same time, she said, families she knows either can't get their children into a Head Start programme because of long wait lists or they travel long distances each day so their children can participate.

"There's a lot of lack of information for families and parents," said Leal, whose daughter attends the Head Start in East Harlem. She planned to attend the event on Tuesday.

Jose Pagan, aged 35, a father of two born in Puerto Rico, said many parents are just busy working so they can pay for basic necessities, but said: "you have to make time for your child." His child also attends the Head Start programme.

A large percentage of US children don't have access to pre-school. In his State of the Union, President Barack Obama renewed his call for universal access to pre-school.

- AP
Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  barack obama  |  bill clinton  |  us
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