Want to Improve Your Kids’ Reading Skills? Send Them to Preschool

We expect a lot from our schools and teachers, don't we? But what are our responsibilities as parents before our youngsters even reach the schoolhouse?

Preschool Education Critical to Kids' Reading Skills

Some experts say that by the time some children reach kindergarten, they can be behind their peers in terms of reading skills and school readiness. As the children progress through elementary school and beyond, it can be difficult for some children to catch up.

Since No Child Left Behind began to stress the importance of achievement through testing, public schools are even more concerned about pre-K school readiness.

That is why during the 2004 – 2005 school year, states across the country averaged $3,551 per child on pre-K services.

Center for Public Education

According to the Center for Public Education, this country first turned its attention to pre-K instruction in 1960 when just 10% of the nation's three- and four-year-olds were enrolled in a classroom setting.

A year later, 69% of all four-year-old children were in some early childhood programs such as Head Start, nonpublic nursery schools, or preschool centers.

Over the past 40 years, federal and state initiatives have contributed to pre-K education. This was triggered in part by researchers who promoted the benefits of early childhood education.

By the 1970s, several states offered free education to disabled children between the ages of three and five. Then in 1986, the federal government passed a law providing federal funding to states providing free education to disabled children; by 1993, all states were offering this service.

Advances in Pre-K Education

By 2005, there were 800,000 children attending state pre-K programs. In fact, there were more four-year-olds enrolled in these state-funded programs than Head Start, a federal program. According to the Center for Public Education:

As a result of these efforts, Georgia, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia enroll more than half of all four-year-olds in public pre-k programs. Amid such growth, however, state policies vary considerably on factors such as the eligibility criteria for enrollment, the location and duration of pre-k services, and teacher education requirements.

Longterm Effect of Preschool Training

There has been recent research on the long-term effects of sending your kids to preschools. Studying children in Michigan, researchers found that children with pre-K education scored higher on fourth-grade literacy and math tests.

The research also documented these areas:

  • Attendance: In New York, researchers documented higher attendance rates for fifth and sixth-graders. In Maryland, higher attendance rates carried over to the tenth grade.
  • Standardized tests: In Texas, students with a pre-K education scored significantly higher. In Maryland, administrators documented higher reading skills and math skills in the fifth, eighth and ninth grades. In New York, sixth-grade students scored higher in reading and math.
  • Retention: Schools in Maryland, Michigan, and Florida found gains. Maryland documented progress in the fifth, eighth and tenth grades.

Researchers found significant gains in these areas even for low-income children and Hispanic children with limited English proficiency.

The research points to the need for more pre-K education for our youngsters.

It’s also important to read to your children as early as possible. Help them to discover books, learn to turn pages, and enjoy the images.

Over time, they will want to read the words themselves and, with more time, improve their vocabularies, increase their literacy skills, and develop a love of reading. Well, we can only hope they’ll love to read!

Improve Your Child's Reading Skills with Preschool Education by Elizabeth B. Martin

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.






Why Art Is Critical to Your Child’s Development

When the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2002, our lawmakers’ had good intentions. It promised to provide extra help for disadvantaged children and reform education.

The government felt it was important to focus on the basics: reading, writing, and mathematics. Regular testing would determine a school’s success in helping its children reach specific standards and test scores would impact funding levels.

The overall intent was to boost our children’s skills most related to economic success. Sounds great, right?

Well … let’s see what’s happened.

Since 2007, nearly seventy-one percent of schools in this country have reduced instruction time in history, arts, language, and music.

Why? Now, test scores matter more than ever.

In fact, in some schools, the art classes remain available. However, the schools will make students who lack proficiency in basic skills to take instead remedial courses emphasizing the three core elements of reading, writing and mathematics.

Oddly enough, physical education wasn’t affected like arts and music programs were but that’s because the government is also concerned about child obesity.

You can imagine what I have to say about all of this, right?

Art is important. For the moment, let’s disregard all the arguments about how art can resonate with our very soul. Let’s just keep to a few basic truths.

 Art Helps Children with Development of Motor Skills

Playing with crayons and a palette of colors looks like child’s play but guess what? Motions that require the creation of art – the way a child holds a pencil or crayon – builds motor skills in children.

In fact, the National Institute of Health has established milestones that children should be meeting:

  • By age three kids should be able to draw a circle and begin to cut in straight lines with scissors.
  • By age four, kids should be able to draw a square.
  • By the time your child enters elementary school, he or she should be able to describe their own creations.

Art Helps Children Develop Decision-Making Skills

Americans for the Arts released a study indicating that the creation of art by children helps them develop and strengthen problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Think about it. Children have to decide what to draw, and then they need to decide what colors to use and what directions to take the brush or crayon. These are all important skills.

Visual Learning Skills

How would your children develop visual-spatial skills if they didn’t have clay, crayons or beads to thread?

Have you been around a toddler lately? Toddlers are likely to use an iPad and play games on it.

Again, this seems like child’s play but experts say this type of activity helps kids become smart consumers and learn out to pick up cues. There are so many reasons why art is critical to your child's development.

Art Encourages Originality

When kids are encouraged to create items with Legos, macaroni, or crayons, they learn to express themselves in a visual manner.

Think about Silicon Valley and the millions of applications that abound in the world. Creative people have ideas that advance the world and move the economy.

Art Encourages Cultural Awareness

Over time, art helps children to recognize when artists portray a subject purely as their interpretation of reality.

What your child draws may not appear to be a chair or the family dog to you but it does to your child. Similarly, children learn to accept that others have their perspective and that sometimes that perspective is driven by cultural values.

Art Courses Improve Academic Performance

Numerous studies indicate a strong connection between art and scholastic achievement.

According to The Importance of Art in Child Development:

“… young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”

So the next time your school discusses cuts to arts programs, bring this research to the school board and fight for the inclusion of art courses as part of your child’s academic training.

goose girl paints

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.