Census tracks 'child's day'

Parents report reading aloud, gifted offspring

Published: Sunday, Feb. 4 2007 12:08 a.m. MST

Did you pat your preschooler on the head today?

You're in good company.

But you're going above and beyond if you praised your teenager.

Nearly three-fourths of kids younger than 6 received Mom and Dad's praise at least three times a day, compared to about 37 percent of teenagers, according to a smorgasbord of information gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau in "A Child's Day: 2003," a survey of nearly 10,000 moms or dads regarding more than 18,000 children.

The report only lists national numbers, not state breakdowns, and information was reported by parents, often within a short time frame of "within the past week." Comparisons are "significant at the 90 percent confidence level."

Some tidbits are startling. Reading, for example.

Whether parents said they read to children in the past week seemed to rise with educational attainment, income, and in two-parent homes. For instance, 23 percent of children whose parents didn't finish high school were never read to, compared to 4 percent of kids of parents with advanced degrees.

Also, "the percentage of Hispanic children who had not been read to in the past week ... was four times higher than the proportion of non-Hispanic white children," the report states.

But it's tough to draw conclusions based on a survey where the question is narrowed to the span of a week instead of a longtime trend, said Andrea Rorrer, University of Utah assistant professor in educational leadership and policy and director of the Utah Education Policy Center. Basically, it doesn't mean kids weren't being read to, she said. Maybe someone other than the parent interviewed read to the child. Or, maybe the family had been on vacation the previous week, and reading wasn't the first thing on their minds.

Early literacy has been linked to early academic success. Reading to youngsters 20 minutes a day has been a state initiative for years. A reading program focusing on kindergarten through third grades has received $12.5 million from the state for the past three years, plus about $15 million kicked in by local school districts. The State Board of Education and the Governor's Office are pushing for $7.5 million to bring full-day kindergarten programs to at-risk children, giving them a boost before achievement gaps can start.

On the flip side is the gifted population of today's children. It's pretty high, the report states.

One in four students are considered gifted, meaning they were enrolled in special classes for gifted students or did advanced work in an academic field, according to the parent surveys.

Utah's numbers are hard to pin down. The State Office of Education reports that 24,400 high school students were in at least one concurrent enrollment class, which extends college credit to teenagers, in the 2003-04 school year, the State Office of Education reports. That's 19.8 percent of high schoolers.

In the same year, nearly 13,400 students, or about 9 percent of the population, were enrolled in Advanced Placement, which also offers college credit.

Schools also offer gifted programs, honors classes and International Baccalaureate programs that would be considered advanced, but the State Office of Education does not track those numbers.

For the under-high-school set, Jordan School District, the state's largest with about 80,000 students, reports 1,219 elementary school students in its Accelerated Learning Program for Students (ALPS), offered at seven schools, plus 383 ALPS middle school students. But ALPS is a drop in the bucket really, says program coordinator Jodi Stewart-Browning. Gifted programs on top of these are offered at individual schools.

Other tidbits:

• 67 percent of preschoolers had TV restrictions. Children with no TV rules were read to less than those with them.

• 42 percent of middle- and high-school-age students participated in sports, and about a third participated in club activities. Those from two-parent homes of higher economic and educational status were more likely to take part.

• 69 percent of children in poverty were reported to be academically on track, versus 78 percent of the more well-off.

• 24 percent of teens ate breakfast with a parent every day in a typical week.

• 30 million children participated in the National School Lunch Program.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS