About Beyond the Backpack

Getting ready for school requires more than having a backpack and the right supplies. Beyond the Backpack can help you build and support a solid foundation for your child’s education.

Beyond the Backpack complements Nick Jr.’s curriculum-based preschool programming by providing parents and caregivers with tips, activities, and resources focusing on five major areas: Family Engagement, Health & Wellness, Literacy Skills, Social & Emotional Skills, and STEM Skills (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)

The initiative includes a Toolkit, Kindergarten Readiness Quiz, customized learning plan, and skill-building games and activities. Materials were created by educators and developmental experts in consultation with the Beyond the Backpack Advisory Committee.


Learning starts long before the first day of kindergarten, and children who get off to a good start tend to maintain that advantage as they progress through school. [1] Child development experts agree that children start learning at birth. Still, recent research points out that the difference in access to learning resources between children of wealthy families and those in poverty has created a knowledge gap with serious implications for a student’s future success. [2]

Beware the “Thirty Million Word Gap!” Nearly two decades ago, this landmark study concluded that a child from a low-income family hears an average of 8 million fewer words per year than a child from a wealthier family. [3] That’s more than 30 million fewer words by the time the child turns four. A follow-up study has found a language gap in children as young as 18 months old. [4]

Ongoing studies also confirm that children’s readiness for school is multi-faceted. Children need to develop skills in a range of areas including language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social and emotional development, and physical health and development. Did you know that reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success? Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone. [5] Educational achievement gaps often already exist by the start of kindergarten, and the larger the gap at the time of school entry, the harder it is to close. [6] That’s why kids’ earliest experiences and environments set the stage for future development in school and in life. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Preparing America’s Children for Success in the 21st Century: Too Small to Fail. A joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Too Small to Fail. 2014.

[2] Neuman, S., & Celano, D. (2012). Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy, and the Development of Information Capital. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

[3] Hart, Betty and Risley, Todd R. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Brooks, Paul H. Publishing Company, 1995.

[4] Carey, Bjorn. Language gap between rich and poor children begins in infancy, Stanford psychologists find. Stanford News. September 25, 2013.

[5] The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. http://gradelevelreading.net/ 2014.

[6] Getting Ready. (Feb 2005). Findings from the national school readiness indicators initiative. Providence, RI: Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.