Why is early childhood education important? The “gap years” where the child is patiently waiting to start school is vital in their early development.
Every state has a different compulsory age for children starting school. The median age is generally around the ages of 5 and 6, though some states have a minimum requirement of the child being as old as 7 years (a few even as high as 8!).
Infants begin learning not long after birth; they immediately begin to process the World around them. As they become babies and reach the toddler years they learn through repetition, crawling, exploring, talking, socialization, and many other experiences.
One of the best ways a child can learn is through reading.
You’re already reading to them at an early age which introduces them to language, emotions, and new concepts to create an inquiring mind but having the child begin reading changes and accelerates the process of education.
The Gap Year(s) in Early Childhood Education
So, if we rewind a moment, think about this: Children often start reading around the ages of 5 and 6 though it’s not uncommon for them to begin earlier when introduced to the activity.
When you consider the minimum age for many schools being between this 5-8 years of age you notice there is a large gap which can be filled with early childhood education. A year or more before starting Kindergarten can lead to an incredible head start for the child.
Now consider that these statistics and opportunities are generally tied to a family unit that has some form of success. But what about those in low-income homes and skirting the poverty line? The children of these homes often exhibit less proficiency in reading at an early age. Two-thirds of children living in poverty don’t even have books in their home!
An opportunity for parents of low-income and the children experiencing potential poverty has been to place their child into a school readiness program. A school readiness program provides many benefits to those in these situations:
- Age-appropriate handouts on reading, development, household safety, and family engagement
- High-quality children’s books and safety items
- Guidance to help with the child’s development milestones
- Assistance to connect with community services such as childcare
These types of school readiness programs, such as the one offered through the Little By Little program, utilize WIC as a way to provide children and households these valuable opportunities to begin reading and developing social/family skills during these vital early years.
The Need for Early Literacy
More than 40 million adults in the U.S. are functionally illiterate (per the National Institute for Literacy and the Center for Education). Do you believe these adults would be able to effectively educate their children if they, themselves, are having issues with literacy?
There is a direct correlation of the success of a child throughout school that is linked to early childhood education – especially reading. It’s common to see those lagging behind their peers, early on, to continue to fall behind in their progression due to their lack of reading comprehension.
This can be alleviated through the early learning programs and service and through several educational experiences and activities:
- Engage in rich talk with the child in a one-on-one environment or in group dynamics
- Frequent storybook reading (and encouragement to participate)
- Phonological awareness activities which use music, movies, and stories to help them understand rhyme, alliteration, and sound matching
- Alphabet activities like using magnetic letters, charts, and puzzles
- Repeated reading of favorite books and trips to learning centers
Writing and reading go hand in hand, too.
A child that learns to read will quickly learn to write – by writing they also learn to read. It’s a perfect combination but, obviously, it needs to begin with early childhood education and a push to read.
Parents want the best for their children but that can be difficult at times when you’re restricted from sending your child to school at earlier ages or if you’re affected by poverty. The “gap years” where the child is patiently waiting to start school is vital in their early development.
Do you know a child that doesn’t have the early learning opportunities? Or, perhaps it’s your child?
- Find a school readiness program near you
- Take time to read to your child (and encourage them to do the same)
- Pay educational games to pique their interest and inquisitive mind
Give them the opportunity and success they deserve by helping them read.