Hillary Clinton has spent decades pounding the podium on behalf of children. Now the Washington Post’s Wonkblog has asked her and other notable figures to share their favorite graphs of the year and explain why they chose them. Clinton’s choice highlights the power of adult interactions with children.
Why ask for a favorite graph? Wonkblog essentially says it’s joining the crowd: “Time has its ‘Person of the Year.’ Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year.” For Wonkblog, the subject is graphs that illustrate important issues in public policy.
“We want to help all parents give their kids a good start in school and in life. That’s what this graph is all about,” Clinton writes.
“I used to sing to Chelsea when she was a baby — until she was old enough to gently tell me that I couldn’t carry a tune. This graph shows us that about two thirds of our youngest children are fortunate enough to have a family member tell them a story or sing to them regularly, and about half are read to by a family member. That’s a great start,” Clinton explains, adding, “We’ve known for years that singing, reading, and talking to our children helps their brains grow and develop. Now new research is telling us even more about how important this is for our kids as they build vocabularies and prepare for school. Seven hundred new neural connections are formed every second, laying the foundation for learning, behavior, health. What happens to children’s brains in the earliest years shapes the adults they become, the successes they achieve and the contributions they make to our economy and our society.”
But while every child deserves an “equal chance for success,” Clinton points to studies that show that “by age four, children in middle and upper income families hear 15 million more words than children in lower income families, and 30 million more words than children in families on welfare.”
The former first lady and former secretary of state is focusing on closing this “word gap” through an initiative called Too Small to Fail.
The graph comes from a report called “The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States” that was released by the Robert F. McCormick Foundation and the nonprofit organization Child Trends.
“We know that children from low income families and families facing multiple-risk factors have many hurdles to overcome,” Sara Slaughter, director of the Education Program at the McCormick Foundation said in a press release. “In fact, we now know that the achievement gap appears as early as 18 months of age. The data in this report serves as a wake-up call and allows us to make data-informed decisions to improve the trajectories for our youngest children.”
Perhaps Hillary Clinton’s favorite graph of 2013 will help policy wonks, civic leaders and the general public to better understand some basic facts that the early childhood policy community has known for some time. Data visualizations like this one can inspire action and change that help children, families and communities close the early literacy gap.
Know someone who would be surprised or shocked by the information in this graph? Share this post with that person and keep the conversation going.