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The Enrichment Gap: How Income Affects Kids' Participation In Activities

The Enrichment Gap: How Income Affects Kids' Participation In Activities



by NHPR Staff

Research shows that participation in organized activities, like sports or music lessons, plays a big role in closing the opportunity gap in school, and in life. 

But with the rise of "pay to play" sports in school, and the virtual disappearance of affordable neighborhood piano lessons, there's an increasing gap in the ability of kids from poor families to participate in organized enrichment.

So, how does New Hampshire's gap look?

According to the Carsey School of Public Policy report on gaps in youth opportunity, kids in New Hampshire have a much greater chance of participating in activities when they come from families at 200% of the poverty or greater. Take a look at the chart to see what the gap looks like in the Granite State:

How does New Hampshire stack up compared to other states? Click through the map to see how the state ranks compared to our neighbors:

Leveling The Playing Field: Digital Games & Children

Leveling The Playing Field: Digital Games & Children

by Word of Mouth

In 1983 Ronald Reagan gave a speech at Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida extolling his new found understanding of the virtues of video games: “I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games [...] watch a 12 year old take evasive action and score multiple hits while playing space invaders and you will appreciate the skills of tomorrow’s pilots.”

32 years later, video games have made great leaps not just in terms of realistic graphics but also in their ability to challenge players with an unending supply of sophisticated problems to solve. Today’s video games offer a wide range of learning experiences for children, that goes way beyond preparing them for the high tech world of battle.  

Listen to the radio story:

We spoke to Greg Toppo, USA Today’s National Education and Demographics reporter about the role digital plays in schools today. In his new book, he argues that electronic games have been unfairly maligned for making children fat, violent and lazy, and that today’s video games can be one way of leveling the playing field. His book is called: The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.In the book, Greg talks about game designer,  Lat Ware who is working on a game that he hopes will someday be prescribed by doctors to help treat children with ADHD. 

Watch a video of Lat's game: Throw Trucks With Your Mind:

Toppo also mentions others that are working with digital games to help children.

Bruce E. Wexler, M.D. is professor emeritus of psychiatry and senior research scientist at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Neurocognitive Research Laboratory at the Connecticut Mental Health Center.

He is working on a program called Activate™ which integrates cognitive software, physical exercise and cognitive assessments to treat kids with ADHD and other disorders. Early trials in school show promising results.

"In Brooklyn, an elementary school principal credited it with turning the school around. Students who got twenty-five or more sessions, he said, saw one year's worth of reading gains in three months."  

In Fairfax County, Virginia, more promising results from the more than 1,000 students participating, "including results from two urban schools where, for the first time, over half of the students saw their scores on standardized reading and math scores outpace those in the rest of the city." (Toppo 182)

Costly Team Sports Put "Life Skills" Beyond Poor Kids' Reach

Costly Team Sports Put "Life Skills" Beyond Poor Kids' Reach

by Peter Biello

For many kids, youth  sports is a time to learn things like teamwork, goal setting, time management-skills that often prove valuable off the field and in work settings later in life. But for kids who can’t afford the fees associated with team sports or the equipment or the uniforms or the transportation to away games, these learning opportunities are few and far between.

As we look at the growing opportunity gap between rich and poor kids in their first decade of life, we turn to Daniel Gould. He’s director of the institute for the study of youth sports and a professor of applied sports psychology at Michigan State University. He spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello.

Press the play button to listen to the interview, or read the transcript below.

What else do kids learn in youth sports?

There are a number of valuable lessons kids can learn through participation in not only sports but other extracurricular activities that they can’t learn in the classroom. We call those "life skills" and they can range from goal setting to dealing with their emotions. There’s a whole range of factors.

What about kids whose parents don’t have the resources to sign them up for some team sports?

We’re very concerned about that issue, and especially since 2008 with the recession, there’s not as many publicly-funded sports programs. So if we know kids get benefits from participation in sports and they don’t get participate, they’re not going to get the benefits. If you come from a middle-class family, your parents can probably afford pay-for-play programs or travel teams, but if you’re from the inner-city, or from a single-parent household, and your parents may not have the money for that, and they’re limiting the rec center hours, or school programs aren’t as well-funded as they were 30 years ago—that really concerns us.

What about the argument that kids can play with sticks and rocks for the woods for free, and if they’re playing with each other, can they still learn those same skills?

A number of people are concerned that we’re over organizing youth sports in general and we’re not giving kids chances to play on their own so that could be an advantage for kids. However things have changed over 30 or 40 years. It’s probably unrealistic, from a liability sense, that parents can just push their kids out the back door. So we’d like kids to have exposure to both types of settings—free play and structured sports.

Are youth sports getting more expensive in general?

I would say yes, because a lot of times kids get to be 9, 10, 11, and if they want to continue with the sport, they have to join the travel team, and that costs money. We’ve also seen a decline in spending on recreation programs. In cities like Detroit, the recreation centers that are being sold are being picked up by nonprofits. It’s not just community sports, it’s school sports. Many schools have had to go to pay for play where you need to pay $100 or $150 to have your child participate in basketball this season or cross country or whatever it may be.

What needs to be done to ensure that low-income kids are able to participate in things like this.

We probably need to invest in youth-sports programs so kids hopefully will join them and become healthier. Secondly, it’s a right thing to do. Kids can learn a lot of values and skills when they’re engaged in a safe activity that has desirable effects, it’s a really good way to help kids, for example, have an alternative to joining the gang if they’re coming from a poor neighborhood.