What Works for Healthy Birthweight?

Starting from birth—or even before—what do children need to succeed? What Works for Third Grade Reading: Healthy Birthweight focuses on the very beginning of  children’s lives. It considers why a healthy birthweight matters for third grade reading proficiency, outlines its connections with other factors that impact early literacy, and highlights options that have been shown to move the needle on low birthweight and premature births.

The resource is one of 12 new working papers that offer research-based policy, practice and program options to states and communities working to improve third grade reading proficiency. Papers on Summer Learning, Regular School Attendance, and High Quality Birth-through-age-Eight Education have already been highlighted.

Preterm and low weight births have been shown to contribute to more health problems later, affecting school and life outcomes.1 Low birthweight is linked to short- and long-term health problems, learning disorders, behavioral problems, grade retention and school failure.2 Low birthweight babies generally score lower on reading, passage comprehension, and math achievement tests,3 and are more likely to be enrolled in special education classes.4

There are important equity considerations when thinking about solutions for low birthweight. In 2015, 9.2 percent of all North Carolina babies were born with low birthweight—more than 11,000 babies. That percentage hides large racial disparities, however:  while the percentage of White and Hispanic babies born at low birthweight is below the state average, at 7.5 percent and 7.0 percent respectively, the percent of Black babies born with low birthweight is nearly twice as high, at 14.5 percent. Just over 11% percent of American Indian babies are born with low birthweight. These disparities cannot be explained by socioeconomic status.

What Works for Third Grade Reading is a collection of 12 working papers that address whole-child, birth-to-age-eight factors that support children’s optimal development and improve reading proficiency. The resource was produced by the Institute for Child Success and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, in collaboration with BEST NC, to support the work of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative.

Pathways is bringing together diverse leaders working across disciplines, sectors, systems, and political ideologies to define a common vision, shared measures of success and coordinated strategies that support children’s optimal development beginning at birth. Pathways is an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation in collaboration with NC Child, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.


1 Schorr, L. B., Marchand, V. (2007). Pathway to Children Ready for School and Succeeding at Third Grade. Retrieved from http://first5shasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/PathwayFramework9-07.pdf

2 Schorr et al, Pathway to Children Ready for School and Succeeding at Third Grade. op cit.

3 Michigan News. (2007, June 5). Born to lose: How birthweight affects adult health and success. Retrieved from (http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/5882-born-to-lose-how-birth-weight-affects-adult-health-and-success

4 Schorr et al, Pathway to Children Ready for School and Succeeding at Third Grade. op cit.