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