Tameeka Coleman and six of her children lived on the streets before moving into a shelter in Fairfield. “We were together, so it was bearable,” said Coleman, 38. The hardest part was when her children cried for their home. “They wanted to know how we had lost our apartment,” said Coleman, who was evicted after she couldn’t pay the rent. Living conditions play a key role in children’s well-being.
When Connecticut’s new kindergarten class starts school in a few weeks, as many as a third of the children from the state’s poorest communities will be walking into their first classroom ever. Among their peers from the state’s richest areas, 97 percent will have attended preschool. It’s a persistent gap that can affect a child’s success through school and beyond, and it widened from 2011 to 2012, according to Connecticut Voices for Children. The percentage of kindergartners in poor communities who had attended preschool fell from 69.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 65.9 percent in 2011-12. For children in wealthy communities the percentage rose from 94.9 percent to 97.4 percent. And while the importance of kindergarten readiness is well known, child advocates are now pressing policymakers to recognize that the need for quality learning begins long before a child even reaches preschool age.