3 ways poverty influences learning

Every child deserves a quality education, regardless of race, religion, gender, or socio-economic status. Education provides students with the opportunity to gain equal access to the knowledge and skills they need to create a better life.

Unfortunately, many children come to school already at a disadvantage. Their families live below the poverty line. As a result, these children face challenges that can impact their education.

Poverty has a significant impact on education. In general,

  • Two out of every five children living below the poverty line come to primary school unprepared to keep up with their peers.
  • Children living in poverty are more likely to experience developmental delays.
  • Teenagers from low-income families are more likely to drop out of school.

Health and hardships

Living in poverty can take a toll on health.

Children from families living below the poverty line may suffer from lower birth weight and greater risk of disease. Low-income housing is more likely to have lead paint, calcified pipes, and faulty wiring, and of which places child safety in danger. The children may also develop mental issues.

These difficulties often present in the classroom. Children come to school hungry, ill, or depressed. Some suffer from PTSD and other issues.

It’s essential that low-income families know that there are resources to help them care for their children, including vaccine clinics, counselors, and meal programs.

The literacy gap

Children from low-income families are less likely to be immersed in the spoken and written language. In fact, they have seen and heard 30 million fewer words than children from more affluent families. Children from families living below the poverty line are linguistically anorexic.

Low-income parents are less likely to read to their children, sing to them, or talk with them. Their children are not exposed to language during their critical development years. Books and the Internet are luxuries that families living in poverty often cannot budget for. They aren’t a high priority.

To help low-income children close the literacy gap, teachers must immerse their students in language by reading, singing, and talking. Encourage students to check out resources that can help them catch up to their peers.

High mobility

Stable employment and stable housing go hand in hand.

Parents who follow seasonal work must move their families frequently. Rents go up. Workers must follow opportunity. Families move once again.

High mobility adversely affects the children who are forced to move frequently, withdrawing from one school and enrolling in another. Frequent moves disrupt children’s education.

If children in your classroom experience high mobility, you can help. Get to know and understand the conditions in which they live. Once you know what challenges they face, you can differentiate and scaffold lessons to help students meet high academic expectations.

Some teachers find themselves tempted to lower their expectations of children who live below the poverty line. That’s not what these students need.

The most crucial undertaking for teachers of students living in poverty is to show them empathy. Living in poverty isn’t easy. Let your students know that you understand just how hard it is.

Visit the families. Talk to the children and parents. Then be that ray of hope that points to a better future through education. Light their paths so they can make their way toward more successful and sustainable lives.

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