Educare provides early childhood development programs for infants and toddlers from low-income families.
Among the big supporters of Tulsa’s program is the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which is dedicated to ending problems associated with poverty. The foundation also is a financial supporter of Oklahoma Watch.
At Educare #2 in north Tulsa, Clinton sang and read a picture book with several students. She also met with community leaders in a closed session to discuss efforts being taken in Tulsa to promote early childhood education.
Too often, Clinton said, people take talking to their children or the role of a school in education for granted.
Pushing the early childhood reading program should make it easier to ensure all children get a strong academic foundation under them before they enter kindergarten, she said.
“The earlier you start, the less likely you’ll even be facing that situation,” Clinton said, referring to having to retain children struggling to read.
“What we’ve learned is pretty simple but profound. When you talk to that infant, when you read to him or her … you’re building brain capacity.”
Advocates for Tulsa’s program said waiting for children to be in school to start learning language and vocabulary skills puts them at a disadvantage.
Ann O’Leary, director of Too Small to Fail, a collaboration between the Clinton family’s foundation and Next Generation, said children who are talked to on a regular basis between the ages of 1 and 3 know an average of about 1,100 words when they start kindergarten. Students who lack that interaction know about 500 words.
That difference in vocabulary can leave a student struggling to catch up for the rest of their time in school.
The “word gap,” as O’Leary described it, also tends to break down along socio-economic lines, with middle-class children knowing more words than their low-income peers.