Difficult school years
One of the best ways to help children and young people placed in care or institutions is to give them a good school experience. This increases their chances of breaking away from negative social heritage, and protects against unemployment, crime and substance abuse, and is one of the most important – and simple – ways to prevent defeat and strengthen self-esteem. In Denmark, no less than 73% of children and adolescents placed outside their home are academically behind their peers.
This is not a question of intelligence. These children are as intelligent as their peers, therefore other factors are influential, such as poor working memory. Poor working memory is connected to chronic stress during childhood to which placed children and adolescents are particularly exposed. The children typically move around a lot, change schools and have to navigate chaos at a young age. Poor working memory makes problem solving and understanding instructions hard for these children, making studying difficult and demotivating, along with producing poor grades and results. Studies show that children and young people can improve their cognitive skills and knowledge through reading and more support from the school.
Problematic school experiences contribute even more to the abundance of risks to which they are exposed. Studies show that only 30% of formerly placed children have completed an education at high school level when they are 25, while 79% of non-placed children have. A higher education is a stepping stone to greater possibilities in adulthood and helps the child develop, not just academically, but also socially, making schooling and education for placed children and adolescents an obvious and crucial area to focus on. Giving at-risk children and adolescents the same possibilities for a good school experience and hope of a bright future, as other children, is why Read for Your Life focuses on books and the joy of reading. We know this has a very positive effect on the children and adolescents’ education and view of their future, as feedback from institutions that have received book donations has shown.