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President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union speech (opens in a new window) put preschool in the spotlight. Obama challenged Congress to build on programs that exist in 30 states to provide high-quality preschool for every child. “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” he said. “And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.” Daniel Willingham, a UVA professor of psychology and author, (and also friend to the Reading Rockets project) and his colleague David Grissmer wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times, How to Get More Early Bloomers (opens in a new window) which describes some of the challenges and truths about high-quality preschool programs. In their piece, Willingham and Grissmer frame their statements with an understanding of what we’ve learned from large-scale studies of programs like Head Start (opens in a new window), the HighScope Perry Preschool Project (opens in a new window), and The Abecedarian Project (opens in a new window). From years of study of preschool programs, we know what doesn’t work: programs that focus solely on social activities or strictly academic skills. What does appear to work? High-quality preschools provide experiences that build important foundational skills. This includes lots of exposure to stories, words, rhymes, and songs. They use these experiences to broaden a child’s understanding about their community and their world. Interesting words and ideas lay the groundwork for understanding more when the kids start to read. Good preschools provide social experiences where kids learn about sharing and collaborating, skills that are used throughout the lifetime. Want to learn more about quality preschool programs? We’ve got lots of terrific resources in the Preschool and Child Care section of our website, including video, parent tip sheets, and articles written for parents and teachers.

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
January 30, 2014