In PreK-Corner, I share and offer discussions with you about issues children experience from birth through school age and how these issues affect them throughout their lives. This month’s discussion is about the importance of preschool.
Some misinformed individuals say preschool teachers are “glorified babysitters.” However, many of us know that preschool teachers have one of the most critical and challenging tasks on Earth and that is to develop the brains of future leaders, educators, parents and citizens. I don’t want to bore you with the science of brain development. So, for the sake of this conversation, it is crucial to know that from birth to the age of 5 years old, the brain developments faster than any other time in life. Studies of the brain reveal that early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life, and it is a preschool teacher who helps facilitate brain development.
Findings show that children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten better ready to read, learn, and expand their vocabulary. They also have the foundation for learning necessary math skills. The achievement gap and other consequences that children who do not have this experience are well documented such as in high drop-out rates, teenage pregnancy, and incarceration. As shared in my previous column discussion about adverse childhood experiences, children who have more positive experiences in earlier years are healthier and more successful in school and life.
Research about adverse experiences indicate that a lack of quality preschool experiences may have many negative impacts on a child’s early brain development and life success. Findings reveal that children who attend preschool are more socially and emotionally ready for the demands of going to school. Highly qualified preschool teachers connect the social and emotional development of children to learning. Three- and 4-year-old children have a healthy curiosity and have many questions, and preschool learning activities teach them how to find answers through play and exploration.
In his 2013 State of the Union Address, acknowledging the importance of preschool education, President Obama stated, “I propose working with States to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.” With all the research findings, preschool is still misrepresented. As a society, can we afford for this to continue? Look for continued conversations and additional information on quality preschool in upcoming columns.
Mattie Jones has a doctorate in the philosophy of education from Indiana University and a Masters of Arts in educational administration from Ball State University. She can be reached at www.prekkeys.com.