The Rainin Foundation has partnered with NORC at the University of Chicago to better understand how we can support the dreams Oakland families have for their children. Education Week published a story about our most recent effort—knocking on more than 5,000 doors in Oakland to talk with families.
Poor Parents Understand Importance of Reading, School Readiness, Survey Says
by Lillian Mongeau, Education Week
It turns out that in the lower-income neighborhoods of Oakland, Calif., 70 percent of parents read to their young child at least three days a week. That fact is one of dozens of fascinating tidbits gleaned from a survey of 420 parents conducted last spring by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, a local philanthropy.
Having reported extensively in Oakland, I was especially interested in the survey, which I was tipped off about by New America’s early-education newsletter. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that while the gap in education-focused parenting behaviors between college-educated, white, middle class parents and their less advantaged peers is notable, it’s not as big as you might think.
To back up a step: The survey covered five Oakland neighborhoods. One of them, North Oakland, is increasingly white and middle class. The others are working class to poor. The differences in the responses between the neighborhoods are pronounced enough that the surveyors pulled out the North Oakland responses on several of their calculations. For example, North Oakland responses were pulled out of the finding that 70 percent of parents read to their children at least three days a week. In North Oakland, that figure is more like 93 percent, with 85 percent reading to their children every day.
But setting North Oakland aside, low-income parents responding to the survey listed far more positive parenting behavior than they are often given credit for. The idea that a lack of strong parenting leads to failures in schools is widespread, though certainly not universal. Student behavior is especially likely to be linked to parenting and that argument has been a sticking point in the debates over school discipline. Low-income children and children of color are more likely to be disciplined or suspended and the blame for that has sometimes been placed at parents’ feet even as others argue that the primary cause is implicit racism. Given this swirling debate, the Oakland survey provides an important window into the actual home lives of children in lower-income areas.
Top photo: Taking a seat at Children’s Fairyland to enjoy a new book. Photo credit: Stephanie Secrest