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Using the Tool KitA Guide
Stage One: Preschool
What You Should Know
Kids are born with a great potential to learn. Scientists who study how the brain works have found that children learn much earlier, and far more, than once thought possible. And a child's first teacher is his or her family.
Reading is the most important skill a child can learn. At an early age, families should introduce their preschool children to activities that will provide a strong foundation for reading in and out of school. These include:
- Learning the letters of the alphabet;
- Hearing the individual sounds in words;
- Learning new words and their meanings; and
- Looking at books and hearing stories read aloud.
In addition to reading skills, you can help your child develop early math skills by counting and sorting with them and pointing out different shapes and patterns.
There are many benefits to placing your child in a good preschool program, especially one that teaches these early learning skills. You can enroll your child in some preschool programs as early as age three. Research shows that such children, on average, perform better in reading and math, have better attendance in school and are less likely to be asked to repeat a grade. Information to help children learn is available from local schools, libraries, community organizations and government agencies. (See the "Using the Tool Kit" section.)
What You Can Do
Families can create a safe, friendly and fun learning environment at home. For example, you can:
- Read aloud to your children every day. Involve them in activities that allow them to talk, listen, explore and wonder. This tells them that learning is both enjoyable and important.
- Make sure there are always books and reading materials around the house.
- Take your child to the local library, and help him or her get a library card.
- Ask older brothers and sisters to pitch in.
If you opt for preschool, try to visit more than one in your area beforehand. Discuss the choice with family, friends, other parents and school officials to make sure you select a quality program that is right for your child.
How No Child Left Behind Can Help You
The No Child Left Behind Act is the nation's landmark education reform law. It seeks to ensure a quality education for every child in America, regardless of race or cultural heritage or family income. The goal is for all schoolchildren to learn to read and do math at grade level or better, based on high academic standards set by states.
Some programs under No Child Left Behind that may be of interest to you and of benefit to your preschool child are:
Early Reading First
Early Reading First supports projects that teach preschool children letters, sounds and words, helping them get ready for kindergarten. There are nearly 100 Early Reading First projects throughout the country, based in Head Start centers, preschool sites and elsewhere. There may be one in your area.
Good Start, Grow Smart
In 2002, President Bush launched the Good Start, Grow Smart initiative to help preschool programs match instruction with their state's academic standards. The initiative also provides information on preschool care to teachers, parents and child care providers. As part of Good Start, Grow Smart, in 2002 the Department of Education published a guide for caregivers called Teaching Our Youngest. If you have Internet access, it's available at http://www.ed.gov/teachers/how/early/
teachingouryoungest/index.html. Your local public library also may have computers available for public use.
Title I Preschool Services
No Child Left Behind provides preschool services to about 400,000 children from low-income families through the federal Title I program. Title I serves disadvantaged children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school. In addition, nearly one million children with disabilities receive preschool care through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, with early intervention for infants and toddlers from birth through age 2. Check to see if your child is eligible for these services at preschools near you.
Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs)
These centers provide free classes and information on early childhood care and learning. The U.S. Department of Education awards grants to PIRCs in communities across the country. Visit http://www.pirc-info.net/pircs.asp to find the one nearest you.
Maya and Miguel
Maya and Miguel is an educational television program for preschool and elementary schoolchildren in English and Spanish. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Its Web site at http://pbskids.org/mayaandmiguel/flash.html has information for parents.
Using the Tool Kit
For more activities to help prepare your child to read, check out A Guide for Reading in your tool kit. Two other booklets, Helping Your Preschool Child and Helping Your Child Become a Reader, are available free of charge in English or Spanish from the U.S. Department of Education. To order these, call 1-877-4ED-PUBS (1-877-433-7827) or visit http://www.edpubs.org.
To learn more about No Child Left Behind and for other questions, call the U.S. Department of Education's toll-free number, 1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327).