About the Little by Little School Readiness Program
Administered by Heluna Health and funded by First 5 LA, the Little by Little School Readiness Program is an evidenced-based program that is designed to engage parents and create a stimulating home environment that fosters early literacy skills among low-income children. This parental engagement, in turn, significantly improves school readiness for underserved children, especially those living at or below the poverty level.
The program, which is administered at Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition sites, is part of a holistic approach to better serve low-income families by actively engaging parents and providing additional layers of parental education and support. During each visit, families receive high quality books and informational handouts that address child development milestones and that encourage family engagement in strengthening literacy practices within the home. By participating in the Little by Little Program, low-income children enter kindergarten more prepared to learn and thrive. Without the Little by Little Program intervention, many lower-income children will enter kindergarten performing well below their peers and will remain behind as they move through each grade, with little or no opportunity to catch up.
In terms of children’s neural development, the Little by Little Program engages families at the most critical period of their language development--between the ages of birth and age five. Research tells us that by age three, children in low-income families have heard up to 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers (Hart & Risley, 1995). A family’s financial circumstances has a profound effect of how much language exposure a child has in their most formative years, with the effects of this 30-million-word gap persisting through the school years with respect to vocabulary and reading comprehension.
The Little by Little Program works to close this ‘word gap’ by helping families to increase the quantity and quality of their verbal interactions with their children. The program teaches parents about the need to read to and with their child, engage their child early, and to also regularly have meaningful conversations and interactions that increase their child’s exposure to new words, reinforcing emerging vocabulary through talking, singing, playing and reading.