Tahoe/Truckee education: Understanding the value of preschool | SierraSun.com

Tahoe/Truckee education: Understanding the value of preschool

Katja Dahl
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE – How important is preschool? My child knows her colors; she can recognize a dozen letters of the alphabet and can count to fifteen. Isn’t that enough? The simple answer: no.

Studies continue to show that these early learning programs are incredibly beneficial to a child’s long-term success in school.

The educational opportunities offered by preschool are important foundations for academic success and socialization. For example, kids learn basic phonics through poetry and song, math from sorting and patterns, and science concepts from simple sand and water play. The social interaction involved in class settings boosts curiosity, teaches problem solving and listening skills.

The benefits include exposure to the concepts of patience, following directions, cooperation, self-expression, sharing and conflict resolution. A child’s understanding of these ideas is critical in developing personality, self-confidence and language development. For many children, these experiences can forever enhance the development of their young brain and subsequently develop positive behaviors and attitudes that can follow a person throughout their life.

The time spent in preschool activities provides children with a solid foundation and allows them to start kindergarten ready to learn and on the right road to academic success.

“I believe that preschool provides a boost in preparation for kindergarten,” explains Gaynell Jackson, Preschool Director for A+ Preschool in Tahoe City. “Preschoolers are being introduced to the basics of numbers, colors and shapes. They are learning about how to hold a pencil, focus on a task, and most importantly how to follow directions. Preschool provides that spark of excitement for learning and allows them to move to kindergarten with confidence.”

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In early 2012, the Excellence in Education Foundation convened community leaders, educators and service providers to improve educational outcomes by launching a 3rd grade reading campaign called Tahoe Truckee Reads. Third grade was selected because it is believed to be the single most important grade with regards to literacy.

Why? It is the year that students move from learning to read or decoding words using their knowledge of the alphabet to reading to learn. This initiative aims to improve literacy and that effort begins even before preschool. Focusing on school readiness by partnering with preschool programs is one of the goals of the Tahoe Truckee Reads literacy plan.

School readiness is determined by a variety of abilities, including language skills that represent reading readiness but also behavioral and emotional components. Ultimately, the preschool experience is critical in preparing our students for the learning requirements of kindergarten and beyond.

Local elementary schools are also involved with Tahoe Truckee Reads.

“At the elementary school level, we are so happy to partner with the Tahoe Truckee Reads Initiative to help support school readiness for all students, and to highlight the role that attending preschool plays in preparing students to succeed in school,” explains Stephanie Foucek, Principal at Tahoe Lake Elementary. “Students who attend preschool typically come to Kindergarten more confident and ready to master the Kindergarten standards that lay the foundation for academic success. We are fortunate in our area to have a wide array of preschool choices for our children, and hope that through this community-wide focus on school readiness through preschool, we will see even more students enrolling in Kindergarten who are truly ready.”

Preschool may be fun with songs, snack time and naps, but the benefits of attending reach far beyond learning to share and participating in circle time. Preschool helps create the strong foundation for building students’ academic careers.

– Katja Dahl is an Excellence in Education board member.