The importance of high quality learning activities for children during their early years, from birth through age 5, has been identified as leading to lifelong successes as an adult. How can that be?
Art Rolnick, former director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, found that high quality preschool education for disadvantaged children leads to lower special education costs, lower crime rates and higher education completion levels.
Research using brain scanning technologies shows that if infants, toddlers and preschoolers are provided with positive brain-stimulating activities, from learning letters to laughing with a caregiver, they have a better chance of reading well, speaking with fluency and coping with stressful situations — life skills that also serve adults in the job market.
On the other hand, young children who are exposed to violence, neglect or low levels of interaction are more likely to need intervention or assistance during their lifetimes.
“These foundation years, prenatal to 5, are critical for a child’s health, cognitive and social abilities” Rolnick said. “If we get the foundation years right, there is a high probability that these children will succeed, grow up to get a good education, get good jobs and pay taxes.”
Early learning can come from child-care providers, parents and early childhood teachers. Children need to be in an environment where the child-care providers and teachers are well trained and understand children’s age appropriate development. One of the goals of a high quality early education or early care is to prepare children to be ready for school.
The Minnesota Department of Education has authored a set of early education and early care standards for teaching young children. The standards are known as the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIPs). The core concepts are: Social and Emotional Development, Approaches to Learning, Language and Literacy Development, Creativity and the Arts, Cognitive Development, Physical and Motor Development.
There are strategies that can be done by families, caregivers and teachers. The indicators apply to children in the preschool period of age 3 to 5. For more information, go to http://www.education.state.mn.us.
Locally, you may choose to participate in early education programs offered by the local school district such as Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), the Learning Is Fun preschool (ECFE Plus), School Readiness, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Head Start and community education preschool classes.
The Pequot Lakes early childhood programs served 129 children in ECFE and 66 children in School Readiness this year. Center based and family child care programs also provide early learning opportunities. The Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Crosslake Early Childhood Coalition has provided family fun events, free books at the Red Book Shelves, books given away at library story events and trainings for parents and child-care providers.
To learn more about the coalition go to either of these websites: www.LakesAreaKids.com or pequotlakes.k12.mn.us, then select Early Childhood Coalition.
Join the coalition for a “Movement and Music” workshop at 6 p.m. April 23 in the ECFE Center at Eagle View. Pre-registration can be made by calling 218-568-9200.
Studies show that children who are read to on a regular basis have a far larger vocabulary and stronger social skills than do children who do not have regular exposure to reading. Brains develop rapidly from prenatal through age 5, not just the last few months before kindergarten starts.
We can still allow kids to be kids and give them stimulating learning environments that will help prepare them for kindergarten and lifelong success.
(Julie Despot is Pequot Lakes Community Education director.)