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Early learning vital for children
As the early childhood coordinator at Ephrata Area School District, David Trout knows how vital it is for children to get a head start in literacy before they enter school.
“If they haven’t had early learning, it’s more of a struggle to work their way through school,” said Trout, who is also a kindergarten teacher at Clay Elementary School.
He’s seen first hand the difference that early learning makes in a student’s academic performance as they enter kindergarten. And the Ephrata Area School District has been notably successful in getting the message out to the community.
Trout was asked early in the school year to speak to the Delaware State Educators Association about the success of early childhood readiness programs within the district.
He discussed the impact and change he’s seen over the past decade due to the district’s programs.
One such program is “Let the Learning Begin’ geared toward children ages four to five who are poised to enter kindergarten. The program stresses prerequisite skills, reading and writing independently.
Another program is Mini Mounts Moment of Discovery open to three-and four-year-olds, as well as incoming kindergarteners. Students can meet teachers and future classmates, have storytime and participate in open gym activities.
“Plant the Seed of Learning” offers parents and their children through age two tips on how to educate their children in a playful environment.
“The main goal for our early childhood programs is to promote a positive readiness programs, but also connect positively to our community.”
One such program is the parent-to-parent home visits for families of three- and four-year-olds throughout the district to demonstrate educational activities and tips on reading to young children as well as “Learning is Fun” kits provided to preschool children.
And Trout insists learning should begin almost from birth.
“The earlier the better,” he said. “As soon as that baby is looking at you, you just start talking, tell stories and laugh, smile, label things.”
The difference early learning makes, he said, is it improves their cognitive abilities, but also behavioral traits such as sociability, motivation and self-esteem.
A notable study conducted by the HighScope Educational Research Foundation examined the lives of 123 children born in poverty and at high risk of failing school. This study, according to HighScope’s website, found that the adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool.
“After 10 years of teaching kindergarten, they come into kindergarten more comfortably because we allow them to enter the school and become part of programs before kindergarten,” Trout said. “Kids are excited because they’ve seen school teachers and students before, and the transition is much more positive and they’re more prepared.”