Educating preschoolers
Maybe it is because I used to be a preschool teacher, but preschool is just not something I have ever stressed over. Read to your children, play with them and talk to them. That is all the "kindergarten readiness" they need. After all, isn't kindergarten supposed to be about "school readiness?" Early childhood education programs are designed to be a sort of surrogate parent, teaching skills which are not being taught at home. Basic skills like rhyming, how to hold a book and following instructions. "Socialization" is a big deal, not because it occurs better in the school environment but because there is such a lack of it occurring in so many of the families served by early childhood programs.

The increasing focus on "quality" preschools and making them available to all parents is distracting us from the fact that most children are better off with their parents. If the family is not dysfunctional, a three year old is better off learning from mom and dad. I know this is not always possible, but we do not do anyone any favors by telling ourselves that a quality preschool can do the same job as quality parents.

A short article in the Roanoke Times gives an interesting argument against formal preschool, even if it was not its intent:
David Elkind, Ph.D., author of "The Power of Play," (Da Capo Press, $24, 2007), agrees. He says studies show these common threads in the lives of early readers: A parent or relative took a special interest in them without engaging in formal instruction, read to them, made trips to the library and talked about books with them. Roanoke Times
A quality preschool is not the common denominator among successful readers. Nurturing parents are. And it isn't like the government has not noticed this.
The U.S. government is keeping score: How often young kids have been read to by a family member each week is one U.S. indicator of the well-being of the nation's 73 million children 17 and younger. The latest report card: About 60 percent of children ages 3 to 5 not yet in kindergarten were read to daily by a family member in 2005, up from 53 percent in 1993. Ibid.
I'm glad the number is increasing, but it is a little disconcerting that 40% of our toddlers do not have someone to read to them on a daily basis. Early education programs try to fill in the gap for that 40% who do not have such advantages at home.

Photo credit: That is my little preschooler, helping feed the birds.

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