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Positive Early Home Environment Predicts Later Academic Success, Study Finds

August 23, 2017
Marva Hinton
Education Week

A new study finds that children’s home environment in infancy and toddlerhood can predict their academic skills by 5th grade.

Researchers from New York University studied more than 2,200 families enrolled in the Early Head Start Research Evaluation Project. They followed children from birth through 5th grade to determine the impact of early home-learning environments on later academic success.

Their study was published online this month in the journal Applied Developmental Science.

All of the children in the study came from low-income, ethnically diverse families. The researchers found that children whose parents engaged them in meaningful conversations and provided them with books and toys designed to increase learning were much more likely to develop early cognitive skills that led to later academic success.

Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of developmental psychology at NYU and one of the study’s lead investigators, stresses that the results counter a lot of the narratives that we’ve been led to believe about low-income families.

“We often make assumptions that this is a homogeneous group,” said Tamis-LeMonda. “They’re all living in poverty, so these kids will therefore be doing horribly, that parenting will be weak. What is amazing to think about is how much the experiences of these children vary from one another. You have children who are in poor families who are getting incredibly rich engagement. Parents are talking to them all the time, providing rich language, lots of books, lots of toys, and then at the other extreme, also within low-income families, you have children who are in much more impoverished circumstances.”