Opinion: Preschool prepares kids for the classroom


By Vicki Barber

Debates continue about whether or not preschool is important for children. For some of us, it’s not a debate; we know it works for children. Two states in the nation, Georgia and Oklahoma, have mandated preschool programs and have consistently shown that preschool gives children a jump start in their learning. California has not yet decided preschool is a major player in education, but El Dorado County knows it is important.

So what’s so special about preschool that can’t be accomplished at home? Most activities of preschool can be accomplished at home with a dedicated mom or dad who is willing to spend time talking, playing, showing, teaching, and demonstrating how the world works. Preparing to read requires a great deal of language development, including such activities as stories, nature walks, and playtime. Some families are geared toward providing just this kind of support for their little ones. However, there are many more families who may not be in a position to provide the structured support that creates a strong learning environment for their voracious learners.

Vicki Barber

High quality preschool does provide the support and opportunities a child needs to develop the language skills necessary for reading and counting. It provides for nature walks and interactive play with others. Here’s what I mean: A child comes to preschool knowing the word “fish.” A family might use the word “fishy” for anything in the water. It’s easy and logical and fun, so fishy it is. Guppies are fish, tadpoles are fish, crawdads are fish, sharks are fish, and so on. Inadvertently, in our desire to keep things simple for a child’s understanding, we often do not use the language that truly describes the thing that is in the water.

A child doesn’t know all those other names for fish unless we use the words. Preschool uses the words. “Here’s the guppy. See the crawdad. There’s a picture of a shark. It’s much larger than the guppy.”

Now the child is getting more words and a much broader picture of “fish.” The wonderful news about this oral language development is that it directly translates into reading. When the child who has these experiences learns to read the word guppy, he or she now has a picture in mind of what a guppy looks like. The same thing happens with a crawdad or a shark. Without these language connections, the child only knows “fish.”

Reading becomes a problem when he sounds out the word gu-pp-y only to be left with a blank space in his mind because there is nothing, no picture with which he can connect the word.

Language development in these early years is a major key to reading. Families and preschools can support this development every day simply by asking the question, “What’s in my world that my children and I can talk about today?”

Vicki Barber is superintendent of El Dorado County Office of Education.



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Comments (12)
  1. earl zitts says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    OH please. By the third or forth grade this waste of money becomes abundantly clear as testing shows no difference between earliers and normals.

  2. John says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    Earl, you are confusing two issues. Pre-school is great for kids, it teaches them how to become a member of a group and they do learn basic counting and such. Great. It is also true that without continued family support, kids lose the benefit of pre-school by about the third grade. That does not mean there was not a benefit. There is, and the studies you are refering to clearly show a benefit. It is just that without family support the benefit declines and the benefit is squandered. So is it wise to cut pre-school or wise to teach the parents how to continue the benefit? Yeah there should probably be a test before someone has a kid, but that wont happen.

  3. dogwoman says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    They’ll eventually learn to become a member of a group just fine. So much more important is the security that stays with a child if it can stay home in the bosom of its family and receive the unconditional love of its mother for an extended period before being shuttled off to be just one of the rest of the kids. Granted, in our society and with our economic situation today, it’s harder to have the “luxury” of Mom staying home to nurture her children. But if she can, that kind of nurturing is so much more powerful than any preschool.

  4. earl zitts says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    John, educrats set up the programs and then grade the programs. Any wonder the results are pre ordained to show a positive benefit.

  5. John says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    Earl, if that is true why do they show no benefit after 3 years? Why would it make sense to show a program doesnt work in the long term if, as you imply, they are frauds?

  6. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    you folks that are writing these coments here obviously do not have children or grandchildren who went to preschool here in town, if you did then you would know that they benifited from their experience

  7. dumbfounded says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    Parents prepare a child for the classroom.

  8. earl zitts says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    John, because an independent,
    non-biased person did the follow on study. That is the proponents of the program didn’t become the only evaluators of the program they created.

  9. John says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    Chief, I currently have a couple kids at the College daycare for a couple days a week. The kids love it. I have no doubt it is great for them. My wife and I are well educated and teach our kids. But the pre-school does teach things we didn’t think about teaching. We carry it on from there. Here is the point, my kids would be fine without pre-school because my wife and I can teach them. The real benefit to pre-school is for kids whose parents are not as educated. But, the problem is that those kids that benefit the most from pre-school are once again left behind in higher grades. Society needs to keep the attention on kids from lower socio-economic groups or by high school they will not be able to compete.

  10. John says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    One more point. I am thinking about leaving Tahoe because of the lack of programs for high achieving kids. There needs to be help for the under performing kids. But there also needs to be programs for the gifted kids.

  11. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: January 10, 2012

    you will find that as your children go thru LTUSD the way that the classes are grouped,1/3 F students 1/3 C students 1/3 A students is where the problem is.

    weather your parents are wealthy and educuated does not mean that you will be successful in life.

    successful is the goal that you should be trying to achieve with your children, with whatever path they choose in life

  12. Tahoe Parent says - Posted: January 11, 2012

    I wonder what “study” you are referring to Earl because everything I have read is that preschool provides substantial gains in acedemic achievement. It is more important for kids of parents who are not educated to attend as they do not know what things young children need to be taught. But it is also beneficial for kids of educated parents for the socialization aspect. For the person who said that young kids should be home with parents, that may be true for ages 0-2 but from age 3 and beyond they benefit from interactions with peers and teachers. They are ready to learn. My four year old reads whole books and writes in complete sentences. Yes, we do read with him at home but this child is clearly ready to learn in a school setting. Denying him the opportunity to attend preschool would be a shame. I feel for the parents who will be affected by the cuts to preschool education. Other nations are doing a better job at education their youth and they will continue to take jobs away from the US until we change the mentality here and make education a priority.