Early Steps to School Success

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Growing Up in America

All children are born ready to learn, but for 15 million children living in poverty in America, they enter school unready to succeed.

Actor Jennifer Garner visits with school children who are participants of a Save the Children reading program at LBJ Elementary School in, Kentucky. Photo by David Stephenson

Actor Jennifer Garner visits with school children who are participants of a Save the Children reading program at LBJ Elementary School in, Kentucky. Photo by David Stephenson

Before even walking through the classroom door, American children living in poverty have already fallen behind in school. By age 4, children from low-income families are up to 18 months behind their peers developmentally.

A child's brain is already 80% formed by age 3; 90% by age 5. But children in poverty are less likely to attend preschool and often live in households where early learning activities are few and far between.

Closing the Achievement Gap before It Starts

The best way to ensure all children have a fair chance at a brighter future is to give each child the opportunity to learn and grow early on. Our Early Steps to School Success program lays a critical foundation of language and literacy skills for children from birth to age 5, so they can enter school ready to succeed.

Through home visits, book exchanges, parenting groups, and an emphasis on transition to school, Early Steps staff helps children with language, social and emotional development, and equips parents and caregivers with the skills to successfully support children's growth.

In the News

  • New York Times Publishes "Invitation to a Dialogue: Children and Poverty" Join the Conversation
  • Jennifer Garner and Mark Shriver talk about advocacy for early childhood education on MSNBC. Watch the interview below.
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited rural Kentucky to showcase the benefits of preschool education. Read the Article

Huffington Post Blogs

Jennifer Garner Advocates for Education

Jennifer Garner, actor and mother of three, has been an advocate for Save the Children's early education programs. In places like Garner's home state of West Virginia, where generational poverty is a barrier to children's success, early childhood education is fundamental to breaking the cycle of poverty. "[Advocating], to me, is one of the most important actions we can undertake," she said. Together, Save the Children and Jennifer Garner are working to ensure that every child in America has access to quality education from cradle to cap and gown.

Early Steps Across the States Fact Sheets

Early Steps to School Success Program

State Specific Program Fact Sheets

Our Results for Children

80% of the 3-year-olds in our early childhood development program score at or above national average on literacy and language tests.


A Letter from Mom

"I am a single mom who doesn't have transportation to the local library to check out books or share stories with my son. I am so pleased to see such a great program being offered in my community. Ms. King [Save the Children's program coordinator] has recently begun home visits with me and my son, Kartez. The friendly and playful time that she shares with me and my son is amazing. She shares activities as well as great books. The smile on my son's face brings joy to my heart, knowing that he is learning and having fun at the same time. He doesn't have chances like this every day to be engaged in fun activities. I am now able to use these activities and the special time that I have with my child is so important to me. 'I would like to thank Ms. King and Save the Children for bringing a program like Early Steps to my community!!'"

-LaShannon, mother of Kartez, Mississippi.

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