and MacLeod, 1996). Information about young children of immigrants is particularly scarce (Board on Children and Families, 1995). Yet the early childhood years are critical for children's cognitive and social development. It is during these years that children begin to develop and expand their ability to communicate effectively with others and begin to acquire reading and math skills that lay the foundation for their future school success and ultimately their success in the work force. The years before children enter formal schooling are especially important in preparing them for school, as is recognized in Goal One of the National Education Goals, which states that ''by the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn" (National Education Goals Panel, 1996). This goal reminds us that how children do in school is determined in part by things that have happened before they ever set foot in a classroom. Learning more about the family circumstances and educational experiences of children of immigrants during these important early years will enable educators and policy makers to develop better ways of serving these children and their families.

Researchers have consistently found that certain family characteristics, such as family composition (e.g., number and type of parents, number of siblings), economic well-being, and parental education, exert a strong influence on children's school success (Zill, 1996; Portes and MacLeod, 1996; McLanahan and Sandefur, 1994; Featherman and Hauser, 1978; Blau and Duncan, 1967). Family involvement in children's lives, both at home and at school, also is important for children's school success (Nord et al., forthcoming; U.S. Department of Education, 1994; Henderson and Berla, 1994). A useful way of thinking about these and other family influences on children's development is to think of them as resources that parents offer their children. These resources can be grouped into three distinct types of capital: human, financial, and social (Lee, 1993; Muller, 1993; Coleman, 1991; Becker, 1981). Human capital is usually measured as parental education, though it encompasses other skills and specialized knowledge that parents have acquired. Financial capital is measured by the income and economic security of a family, which influences the quality of the environment that children are raised in; the types of schools they attend; and the types of educational materials that parents can

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement