Only 18 Percent of Mexican-American Mothers Read to Their Kids

According to UC Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller, who co-authored a study of Latino toddlers, their inability to keep up with the English language comprehension of their white peers should be addressed by the federal government, funding workers to visit the children’s homes to train non-English speaking parents on how to parent, as well as instituting comprehensive widespread parent education.

Fuller told the Los Angeles Times that funding presently in place is centered on preschool but “we’ve got to start earlier” because “the disparities open up far sooner.”

The study showed that Latino toddlers kept up with their white peers until they were roughly nine months old, but fell far behind by the time they were two years old. Data also indicated that roughly 80 percent of Mexican-American toddlers were three to five months behind in pre-literacy skills, oral language and familiarity with print materials.

Fuller insisted that the poor results for Latino toddlers were no the result of a lack of warmth in the home, but rather the lack of language and literacy skills. He told the Los Angeles times, “For many Latinos, the home is a nurturing and supportive environment, but it’s not necessarily infused with rich language and cognitive challenges. Being warm and fuzzy may lead to well-behaved youngsters but it doesn’t necessarily advance a young child’s cognitive agility.”

The mothers in the study read less to their children than their white peers or offer their children praise and encouragement. Only 18 percent of Mexican-American mothers who spoke their native tongue at home read to their children daily, 59 percent of white mothers read to their children. Speaking English at home didn’t help much — only 28 percent of Mexican mothers who spoke English read daily to their children.

Fuller noted that the Latino mothers were more prone to issue commands to their children and believe that their children could wait until kindergarten to read. White mothers felt that their children should start learning how to read at age two.

Fuller couldn’t figure out why Mexican-American toddlers whose mothers worked outside the home fared better than those whose mothers stayed at home. In 2012, he commented that despite the language skill disparity, Mexican-American toddlers social skills remained on a par with their white peers, saying, “Researchers have long assumed that poor parents display poor parenting. But we find robust cultural strengths in Mexican American homes when it comes to raising eager and socially mature preschoolers.”


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