Haskins Post-doctoral Fellow Kaja Jasinska receives 3 year Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation
Haskins Laboratories Post-doctoral Fellow Kaja Jasinska has received a 3 year Fellowship from the Jacobs Foundation Early Career Research Fellowship for a project entitled Promoting Literacy Development in Children in Rural Cocoa Producing Communities. Children living in poverty grow up facing numerous obstacles to literacy, including biological (e.g., poor nutrition, disease), environmental (e.g., limited time and/or resources dedicated to learning, impoverished learning environments), and even political (e.g., inadequate education resources, education policies that disadvantage certain groups of children). In many rural cocoa-producing communities, the age at which a child enters formal schooling can vary considerably depending on the availability of funds and need for child labor. Therefore, a primary school classroom in a rural community can have students that range widely in age and who have had inconsistent and sporadic access to reading instruction and faced with the added challenge of learning to read in a new language (e.g., official language French), different from their community language. The focus of the research fellowship is to address the effects of poverty on typical reading development, specifically using the latest tools of cognitive science to measure the impact of diverse learning environments (e.g., different local versus teaching languages, varied age of first literacy instruction) on a child’s ability to acquire literacy. The overall objective is to improve understanding of the cognitive and brain basis of learning in poverty with the specific aim of providing classroom-implementable solutions that optimize children’s literacy and cognitive development in early life and promote sustainable life-long learning. How do we best support literacy in a multilingual learning environment? What program of first reading instruction works best for a child who begins learning to read at age 6 versus 10 or even later and who may have missed multiple years of schooling? This information is critical for the development of new insights into optimal reading instruction in resource-poor classrooms, bridging child development with education policy. The research project is taking place in the Ivory Coast.