By Mike English
When I grew up, school started in Kindergarten. At age five, children got their first backpacks and started the formal learning journey. What I have learned is that we cannot expect schools and teachers to graduate successful students if children do not start Kindergarten with basic learning skills and experiences. If school is about learning, and learning starts at birth, then the idea that we expect Kindergarteners to meet their first teachers at age five is all wrong. Pre-Kindergarten classrooms are wonderful places where children make friends, learn their letters, and begin to count. Pre-K is school, but not the beginning of school. Learning starts at birth.
Children’s brains are like wind-up cars. When parents talk and read regularly to their babies, they are preparing these children for Kindergarten. Just like a wind-up car takes off when you set it down, the same thing happens to kids in school – their learning takes off. But a child that starts Kindergarten without early learning experiences is likely to sputter, just like a wind-up car that hasn’t been wound up.
The initiative Pre-KC proclaims loudly that early learning matters. It ensures five year olds are ready for Kindergarten, more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade, and ultimately graduate high school prepared for college or the workforce.
Mike English is Executive Director of Turn the Page KC, a partner in Pre-KC. Previously, Mike served as the president and CEO of the Missouri Council on Economic Education, and worked at the Kauffman Foundation.