It sounds like something you’d expect to read in a newspaper from the 50’s: Latino children are not as advanced, academically, as their White counterparts. Of course, the research done at UCLA, UC Berkeley, and the University of Pittsburgh does not simply say that White kids are inherently smarter than Latino kids; ideas like that were disproved long ago. Instead, the findings highlight the importance of parents in helping children succeed in school.
What makes the difference is the parents’ ability and willingness to be their children’s first teacher, reading and talking to them, long before they ever start any sort of formal schooling. Parents from Latino countries tend to be less likely to spend time with their children doing academic activities and are less likely to be educated themselves. It is, in fact, the mother’s level of education, regardless of race or native language, that is the best predictor of a child’s success.
“Many parents don’t recognize the importance of spending time with their children and reading to them every day starting at birth,” says Rachel Grilley, a first grade teacher from Daly City, California. “Many Parents who aren’t fluent in English are uncomfortable reading to their children in English, but reading to them in their native language works just as well; they’re still being exposed to the structure of language and literature.”
I know that it can be difficult to fit time in to a busy day to read to kids; parents get tired and stressed and many are working two jobs and it can seem impossible to find the patience and the energy, but studies keep showing that parents, more than anything else, are what determines a child’s success or failure in school.