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May 9, 2001

Extended Childhood Intervention Prepares Children for School and Beyond

JAMA. 2001;285(18):2378-2380. doi:10.1001/jama.285.18.2378

Children raised in poverty can do well in school and later in life, but they face many more obstacles than children reared in wealthier homes.1 The more obstacles the individual child faces, the greater the likelihood he or she will not achieve success in elementary school. Today 4 million, or more than 1 in 5, US children younger than 6 years live in poverty2; the associated risks also affect the large number of near-poor children whose family incomes place them above the artificial poverty index.3 The scope of the problem has changed little since 1964 when an all-out War on Poverty was declared by President Lyndon Johnson. As the nation's leaders pondered the causes and cures for poverty, Johnson's antipoverty chief, Sargent Shriver, offered his observation that the children of the poor were ill-prepared when they entered school. Starting with this disadvantage, they fell further behind through progressive grades, and they never attained the education needed to break the cycle of poverty. Thus was born Head Start, a nationwide program designed to foster school readiness through comprehensive, 2-generation services targeting the various obstacles poor children face.

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