Early learning education: Why it matters for children

Preschool is so much more than playing! Early education programs or preschool foster exploration and discovery through a play-based curriculum.

PINELLAS COUNTY — Have you heard the saying “children are like sponges?” It’s true! Children are born learning and taking in the world around them. Recognizing that 90 percent of brain development occurs before a child starts kindergarten, early experiences are crucial to their success. The foundation built during the first five years of a child’s life can put them on a path to success.

Research shows that early education leads to better outcomes in school and life. Children who attend high-quality preschool programs are more likely to read on grade level, graduate, and succeed in their careers. Early learning programs in preschools and family child care homes can help parents prepare their children for kindergarten and beyond.

We sat down with Lindsay Carson, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County (ELC Pinellas), to learn about early learning education and how it impacts Black children.

Why should families consider early learning programs for their children?

A child’s brain develops fastest during the first five years of life, making this a critical period for learning and development. When we wait until kindergarten, it can be too late!

Enrolling children in early learning programs lays the foundation for kindergarten readiness. Children who receive quality early education (0 – 5 years) demonstrate greater cognitive and social-emotional growth than children who do not. It helps them build the academic, social, and study skills needed to do well in school and life.

Families want their children to have every opportunity to succeed. It has been proven that children who receive a high-quality early childhood education are better prepared for success in school. Early learning programs, like VPK, can bridge the opportunity gap that leads to achievement gaps later on. This means they are more likely to graduate, earn higher wages, live healthier lives, raise stronger families, and have a better quality of life.

Some parents may think that preschool is just fun and games, or some may say “babysitting.” What do children really learn?

Preschool is so much more than playing! Early education programs or preschool foster exploration and discovery through a play-based curriculum. While the primary educational benefits of preschool (such as literacy and numeracy) are tangible, the advances children achieve towards becoming well-rounded individuals are truly invaluable. Among other things, children develop attentiveness, persistence, impulse control, and social skills.

Children participate in hands-on and interactive experiences that develop curiosity and creativity. Additionally, songs, games, stories, and conversations help develop a child’s language and reading skills, including vocabulary, storytelling, rhyming, and comprehension. These developmentally appropriate activities allow children to learn and grow naturally. The excitement of discovery builds on a love of learning and inquiry.

How is ELC Pinellas helping families?

At ELC Pinellas, we are committed to helping all families have access to quality early learning opportunities through our School Readiness (SR), Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK), and Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) programs. We work to ensure that Pinellas County families are supported – and their children have access to the resources needed to be ready to enter kindergarten and thrive. If you have questions, please call 727-400-4411 or chat with a representative online at ELCPinellas.org.

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