One of the major educational topics that continues to be discussed is the importance of early childhood education. In addition to providing grade school readiness, an academic preschool program can also provide children with other enrichment opportunities. When preschool-aged children receive a high quality education, they are better prepared to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
In the United States, around three-fourths of children between the ages of three to five are currently enrolled in some type of academic preschool program. These preprimary programs tend to consist of either classes or groups that provide a variety of educational experiences. It’s important to note that since the 1990s, there has been a steady increase in the number of children being enrolled in these types of school readiness programs.
There are some foundational criteria that provide a working definition for “school readiness.” According to the National Education Association (NEA), school readiness includes the following categories:
- Academic knowledge
- Social skills
When children have the opportunity to develop these skills in a supportive environment, they are better prepared for success in kindergarten, grade school, and beyond. Since an academic preschool curriculum is specifically designed for this age group, many of the activities are fun as well as educational. As a result, children discover that they enjoy learning, which provides a strong, positive foundation when they are exposed to more advanced curriculum.
The NEA stresses the importance of parents being part of this process. Reading readiness, for example, can be enhanced when parents and other family members create the time to read to children. This can also assist them with further developing their vocabulary and cultural awareness along with communication and social skills.
Children obviously benefit when parents and other family members are involved in their educational process. In addition to showing children that learning is important, families are also able to provide positive reinforcement and praise for lessons learned. When children receive encouragement and are aware that they are valued, this develops their self-esteem and provides a strong foundation for future learning.
The benefits of academic preschool also include addressing the needs of children who may be at-risk. While each child is unique, without a high quality education to prepare them for kindergarten, they may not do well in grade school or beyond. Studies have shown that 25% of at-risk children may not graduate from high school, and 60% may not be prepared to attend or complete a college education.
When children are introduced to formal education within a supportive academic preschool environment, they will be more aware of what will be expected of them when they enter kindergarten. Furthermore, it’s more likely that they will be excited to learn as a result of their previous high quality education.