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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