For Children of Black Immigrant Mothers, Parental Literacy and Center-Based Childcare Improve School Readiness

As part of the Young Children in Black Immigrant Families initiative, Chapin Hall set out to examine the experiences, parenting practices, and characteristics of black immigrant mothers in Palm Beach County, Florida. We found that compared to children of black U.S.-born and Latina immigrant mothers, children of black immigrant mothers are more likely to be ready for school. Parental support of childhood literacy and use of center-based child care enabled these children to overcome some of the difficulties of life in distressed areas.

What We Did

We compared the characteristics of black foreign-born mothers to those of mothers from other groups using data on the 2004-05 birth cohort in Palm Beach County, school district data on indicators of school readiness, and data from a survey of mothers living in distressed areas of the county. Literacy and behavioral observations were the measures of school readiness.

We focused our analysis on differences and similarities between black and Latina foreign-born mothers, and on those between black foreign-born and black U.S.-born mothers. We also conducted multivariate regression analyses to explore how the kindergarten readiness of children of black immigrant mothers differed from that of children of Latina immigrant mothers and children of black native-born mothers.

What We Found

Our analysis found that:

  • After accounting for differences in parental and child characteristics, children of black immigrants had significantly higher odds of being ready for school than children of Latina immigrants or black natives.
  • Black children of immigrants residing in distressed areas of Palm Beach County had kindergarten readiness assessment scores comparable to those of the average child living in the county as a whole.

Some of the advantages experienced by the children of black immigrants were due to their parents’ employment status and educational attainment. These advantages were strengthened by enrollment in center-based care and by parental support of childhood literacy.

What It Means

This research supports the well-documented association between the use of center-based early care and education and child outcomes. It shows the need for high-quality center-based care and preschool for more black and Latina immigrants’ children.

Parents’ encouragement of children’s literacy influenced the differential outcomes between Latina and black immigrants’ children. Clearly, we need to know more about the links between early parenting practices and preparing children for school. Accessible and high-quality early care and education interventions are critical to bolstering positive parenting practices. Targeted interventions are particularly important for mothers with lower educational backgrounds or literacy skills, and for whom English is a second language.

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