Co-Constructing the Transition to School
from both groups were less likely to be involved with conversation with adults than either group from the White community. Middle-class children in both the White and the Black communities were more likely to be involved in pretend play and to engage with objects that might help with literacy (such as looking at books or being read to) and numeracy than their working-class peers (Tudge & Doucet, 2004). It is interesting to note, however, that those working-class Black children who attended formal child care centers were far more likely to participate in school-related lessons than those who did not (Tudge, Doucet, Odero, Sperb, Piccinini, et al., 2006).
There is thus good evidence that young children’s school-relevant experiences differ by virtue of the specific cultural community of which they are a part. What, if an , are the im- plications after they enter school? In three of the four communities, children who had engaged as preschoolers in more school-relevant lessons (about literac , numerac , and so forth) were much more likely to be perceived as academically competent by their teachers when they were in second or third grade (correlations ranging from .49 to .55). The exception was White working-class children, who had participated in almost no such lessons. Similarl , children in three of the four communities (middle-class Black children were the exception) who had had more lessons about the world (skills, nature, and safety) were more likely to be viewed as more competent (correlations from .3 to .5). Middle-class children who had had more interpersonal lessons (about politeness, getting along with others, and so forth) were also more likely to be viewed as more competent (.58 for the White children, .21 for the Black children). The re- maining activity that involved verbal interaction with others, namel , conversation with adults, was also clearly linked to teachers’ perceptions of competence 4 years later in three of the four groups, strikingly so in the case of the working-class White children (.87), less so for the middle-class children (.4 in the White communit , .23 in the Black community). Inter- estingl , those activities that did not necessarily involve interaction with an adult (pretend play and playing with school-relevant objects) were only positively related to later competence for working-class White children (pretend pla , .39) and middle-class Black children (play with school-relevant objects, .43); working-class Black children who had been involved in more pretend play were actually viewed as less competent by their teachers (–.37).
These data reveal that middle-class children are more likely than their working-class peers, during the years before they go to school, to engage in the types of activities that are linked to school success, and these differences are magnified in the case of White children. These results are in agreement with the literature on children’s early language and literacy experiences (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; Hart & Risley, 1995, 1999) showing how those early experiences are related to both class and race/ethnicity and having clear implications for the transition to school.
There are two ways of looking at this issue. The traditional way is to simply view mem- bers of groups that are not White and middle class as having an impairment that needs to be made up if success is to occur. An alternative position is that schools have privileged the goals and practices of one particular group without considering ways of building on the more typically occurring experiences of other groups. For example, as Serpell et al. (2005) found in their research on early literacy experiences, the Black children in their study were more likely to play word games and to draw and write than Whites, and middle-class Blacks were far more likely than children from the other communities to engage in oral story- telling. A similar point can be made regarding parents’ beliefs about educationally relevant activities. For example, although 70% of the parents in Serpell et al.’s Early Childhood