“We applaud President Obama’s leadership in declaring that early childhood education should be open to all students. Expanding and improving early childhood education is a critical effort for enhancing educational opportunities for all of our students but especially the most vulnerable children in our society,” according to International Reading Association (IRA) President Carrice Cummins. She continued, young children clearly benefit from expanding their vocabularies, their knowledge of words, understanding of sounds and other literacy related experiences. However, she stressed that effective early childhood learning is not simply about learning a few skills; it is linking those skills to developing an understanding of how they can be used and how they make meaning.
The key to expanding and improving early childhood education will be in making sure that the program has the tools to be successful. These tools will include teachers who have a strong background in literacy and child development. To ensure that we have the teachers we need we recommend that the Congress work with the states to support the number of early childhood teacher education programs for teachers in four-year institutions and for paraprofessionals in community colleges and that these programs have early literacy teacher education components. In addition, we suggest that the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development increase their attention to early childhood learning and instruction.
“Improving early childhood education will result in long-term and significant improvements in how a child functions in elementary school; we should not lose this opportunity to make this difference,” Cummins concluded. IRA will be offering new resources to expand what teachers know about teaching in early childhood programs with books, webinars, and conference sessions that will emphasize what we know works and makes a difference in the lives of our youngest learners.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association.