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Rural Children Start Kindergarten With Lower Reading, Math Skills

Rural children entering kindergarten have less advanced reading and math skills than children living in suburbs and small cities.

The same was true of children who live in large urban areas, according to a new study that soon will be published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly. The study is available for purchase online.

The study's authors, Portia Miller and Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, both of the University of Pittsburgh, used a nationally representative sample of about 6,050 children to look at how children's geographic upbringing relates to their academic skill development.

Their findings show that urbanicity, or the degree to which an area is urban, affects children's development because of its relationship to their home and early-childhood education environments.

Rural children are further behind because they experience "less positive parenting, fewer educational materials and activities, and their parents have less knowledge about how children develop and lower expectations regarding their children's future academic attainment," according to the study, titled "Early academic skills and childhood experiences across the urban-rural continuum."

Rural children also have lower enrollment rates at pre-school centers, which also may be a factor in their less advanced early reading skills, according to the study.

Given that, the study suggests research, policies, and programs on early academic development need to be more targeted to rural areas, rather than being traditionally focused on urban children.

They study's authors cautioned their findings were correlational, and so should be interpreted with caution.

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