The period from preschool to 3rd grade is one of the most formative times in a child’s life for cognitive and behavioral development. High-quality early childhood education can yield benefits such as lower tendencies to repeat grades, less need for special education, future educational and professional achievement, and even decreased chances of future legal troubles. Yet, in spite of the many pluses, in 2011 40% of kids in the U.S. ages 3 to 5 years old were not enrolled in preschools. Particularly for low-income minority families, access to quality preschool and early education programs remains limited.
Three Reasons Why Early Childhood Education Matters:
- Cognitive Skills: Specialized ECE curriculums aid kids in developing age appropriate cognitive skills, such as identifying colors and shapes in preschool and understanding simple addition and subtraction in pre-kindergarten.
- Social Development: In order to thrive in school it is important for young kids to develop a sense of security with adults and other children. Preschools are often the first formal settings where kids form positive bonds outside of family relations and gain necessary social skills such as the ability to share and work in teams.
- Language Building: Language develops rapidly between the ages of 1 and 5--with learning as early as the moment babies are able to recognize sounds. Guided early learning both promotes age appropriate conversation and capitalizes on daily interactions to advance vocabulary and conversational skills.
The current government shutdown has temporarily closed Head Start--the largest ECE program for low-income families--denying thousands of children vital time in the classroom to learn important skills. Local initiatives, as well as public-private partnerships, are becoming more critical to address the imminent need for quality early education in diverse communities as I discuss in Education Wednesday: A Lesson from our Business Leaders. Programs such as Bright From The Start, Ready For K!, and Harlem Gems Head Start work with the entire family to put kids on a positive path to lifetime learning.
For information on finding programs in your area check out this link.
Although learning is a process that takes place during every stage of life, the start we give our kids can powerfully affect their path to success as adults. It's vital for parents, teachers, and mentors to continue to explore early childhood education programs to give our kids an advantage. Let's commit to engaging young scholars from the start for their good and that of our country.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.How were your experiences with early childhood education?