This week, child development researchers from the University of Michigan reported on the benefits of preschool. They say two years of a formal program before kindergarten is important, especially for certain skills.
The study, published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, followed three and four-year-old kids and assessed their skill levels in the areas of self-regulation, vocabulary, and letter knowledge.
According to the researchers, only 57 percent of three to five-year olds attend preschool. And “as many as half of students enter kindergarten without the necessary academic or social skills needed to succeed.”
Here are the skills the got a boost with two years of preschool:
The researchers found that letter knowledge and “decoding” — the ability to name letters and read words aloud — went up for preschoolers, and that two years were more effective than one for this skill set (in other words, kids starting their second year of preschool out-preformed their same-age peers who were just entering the first year).
Meanwhile, self-regulation skills (like attention, focus, memory and so on) and vocabulary were more related to age than to school experience.
So, at least in this study, (which the authors say is consistent with other findings) the ability to recognize letters and words got a boost from two years of school — and these are important skills to have entering kindergarten. But self-regulation and vocabulary did not change by being in school.
Their conclusion: two years of preschool is important, but programs should focus more on helping kids self-regulate and boosting vocabulary.
My take on preschool has always been that it’s not a time for heavy academics (at least not the first year), but a time for kids to learn through play and social interaction.
What do you think? Is more than one year of preschool important, and if so, what skills should kids be learning in those years?