The low-cost, Save the Children home-visiting program that actor/advocate Jennifer Garner and journalist Nicholas Kristof explored last night in the new PBS documentary A Path Appears is showing dramatic results in many of the nation’s poorest communities.

Although research has consistently shown that most U.S. children living in poverty fall far behind other children by the time they reach school, Save the Children’s results show that 80 percent of its young, at-risk participants score at or above the national average on pre-literacy tests.

“We know that children with access to high-quality early education are more likely to graduate, go on to college and do well economically,” said Kathy Spangler, Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs. “What our results show is that even the most-at risk children in America can succeed when these efforts start early enough.”

A Path Appears is the sequel to the highly-acclaimed PBS film Half the Sky, and both are based on books written by Pulitzer-Prize-winning, New York Times journalists Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Last night’s episode, subtitled, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty,” featured West Virginia families participating in Save the Children’s early education program.

“The aim is to improve very early infancy care in a program that is part of the family of efforts called home visitation, which maybe have the best evidence base of any anti-poverty program in the United States, and yet are catastrophically underfunded,” Kristof explains in the film.

In the film, Kristof and Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner, a West Virginia native, tag along with Save the Children’s local program coordinator as she brings books, developmental activities and other critical support into the homes of struggling families. The program, which offers home visits from a mother’s pregnancy through age 3, also forges early connections between families and their child’s future school.

Studies have shown that U.S. children living in poverty typically hear 30 million fewer words by the time they are 3, are six months developmentally behind better-off peers by age 2, and are 18 months behind by age 4.

In addition to living in poverty, children in Save the Children’s early education program typically face four additional risk factors, such as parents who didn’t finish high school or are affected by substance abuse. Yet, children in the program across 15 states – from Western farmworker communities to the Deep South, from Native American reservations to Appalachia – are bridging the early gaps that many U.S. children living in poverty never overcome.

Source: Save the Children

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