Preschool preliteracy and kindergarten readiness

Babies in families who receive government assistance are exposed to an average of 616 words per hour compared to an average of 2,153 words in families not receiving assistance. By the time children from economically disadvantaged families enter preschool, they are already behind their peers.

However, when preschool children listen to stories, the areas of their brains that support mental imagery and narrative comprehension—that is, understanding meaning—are activated.

Just a few weeks of dialogic, or hear-and-say, reading—involving a child in the reading process by asking questions that extend their understanding of the book—can help children jump ahead in their language development by several months.

Page Ahead’s Story Leaders program combines the impact of hear-and-say story times and the power of building home libraries to help children at government-supported preschool programs develop important preliteracy skills to get them ready for kindergarten and beyond. 

Preschoolers in Tukwila enjoy a reading of Story Leaders book The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear in 2022

A reading intervention that trains educators and families in evidence-based shared reading techniques for preschool children, Story Leaders rapidly develops vocabulary and language skills and provides eight free books that the students have read in class during the school year to take home, building both their home libraries and reinforcing the home–school connection.

Story Leaders is delivered in public Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) preschool classrooms where roughly 45 percent of the students are children of color and about one third speak a language other than English at home. It supplements existing curriculum and resources, helping to dismantle the literacy achievement gap that is too often experienced by children of color and children from under-resourced communities before that gap becomes irreversible. And it helps teachers, families, and children engage in meaningful, joyful reading together!

Learn more about Story Leaders here.

Summer slide and the reading skills gap

Research shows that regardless of family income, students progress in their learning at the same rate during the school year. However, summer vacations create an average reading skills gap of about three months between students who live in economically advantaged families and those that don’t. This gap accumulates every year, and students from lower-income families can often be two or three years behind their more-advantaged peers by the time they go into middle school.

Luckily, providing students with easy access to books they choose for summer reading, over multiple years, limits summer reading loss. These students will more often engage in voluntary summer reading and will have higher reading achievement; the greatest gains come from students whose families are the most economically disadvantaged.

Students at Lake Grove Elementary in Federal Way “shop” for their twelve free books at their Book Up Summer book fair in spring 2022

Page Ahead’s programs are designed to close that gap before it happens—we focus on reaching children furthest from educational opportunity in the earliest stages in their development. Based on a highly regarded 2010 Department of Education–funded study, our Book Up Summer program gives students in grades K–2 at majority low-income elementary schools reading material for summer vacation—at no cost to them or their families. 

Instead of a summer setback, Book Up Summer students experience a boost! According to 2018 Seattle Public Schools testing data, Book Up Summer students show an average improvement in reading skills of 2.63 points over the summer for rising first graders and 1.84 points over the summer for rising second graders.

To see these students, who would typically slide back, actually gaining reading skill is a powerful endorsement of this summer-reading model.

Learn more about Book Up Summer here.