Do early academic experiences shape children's later academic achievement?

A grandfather reading to his two grandchildren

The issue

The neighbourhoods in which children reside at Kindergarten can influence their reading comprehension scores in elementary school, seven years later, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Human Early Learning Partnership, (HELP) at the University of British Columbia.

Lead author Dr. Jennifer Lloyd, alongside co-authors Dr. Leah Li and Dr. Clyde Hertzman, tracked 2,648 urban BC children from Kindergarten to Grade 7. They found that the socioeconomic conditions of their neighbourhoods of residence at Kindergarten significantly influenced children’s reading trajectories over time. More specifically, higher rates of concentrated disadvantage (poverty) in children’s neighbourhood of residence at Kindergarten associated with lower Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) reading comprehension scores in Grade 7.

Data sources linked

  • Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment (BC Ministry of Education)
  • Census data (Statistics Canada)
  • Tax filer data (Canada Revenue Agency)
  • Early Development Instrument (EDI) (Human Early Learning Partnership)

What did we learn?

  • Higher concentrations of disadvantage in children’s Kindergarten neighbourhoods predicted lower reading comprehension outcomes in Grade 7. Numeracy was not similarly affected.
  • In contrast to the Kindergarten neighbourhood disadvantage, the Grade 7 neighbourhood did not have an independent effect on either reading comprehension or numeracy scores.

“Thanks to Population Data BC and its state-of-the-art secure data facility, I have been able to  access BC Ministry of Education data which have been anonymously linked, at the level of the individual child, to population-based early child development data routinely collected by HELP.

Utilising these wonderful data riches has allowed me to gain new insights into how children’s early experiences influence their educational trajectories over time.”

Jennifer E.V. Lloyd, Ph.D

Making a difference

  • The findings demonstrate a lagged effect of neighbourhood disadvantages over and beyond the effects of the children’s early test scores. This raises new research possibilities for studies that further explore neighbourhoods’ impact, over time.
  • Early neighbourhood conditions exert a stronger effect on reading comprehension than on numeracy skills.This is possibly because of how we differentially acquire reading and numeracy skills:
    • Numeracy skills are typically learned in formal settings, like schools and classrooms
    • Reading skills are additionally reinforced at home, and in the community (public libraries, local book stores, after-school programs). Parents, extended family, friends and neighbours collectively contribute to these skills.
  • Consideration should be given to the impact of a neighbourhood’s concentrated disadvantage while allocating resources and providing facilities, (for instance, libraries and educational programs to reduce vulnerability and support stronger reading skills.)


Population Data BC provides researchers with access to the data and training they need to address research questions on human health, well-being and development.

PopData does not have its own researchers or research program.