Early exposure to rich learning environment an essential factor for future positive outcomes

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To the Editor;
I am writing to support with enthusiasm Gov. Mills’ proposal in making preschool available to all children in Maine. As a teacher of English and communication, I have had the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of students from middle school through college. Based on years of observation and experience in various settings, I realize the vital role of early exposure to a rich learning environment — it is an essential contributing factor to positive outcomes in future formal academic expectations. The early lessons of cooperation, following simple instructions, and developing positive social skills all pave the way for kids to become active listeners and learners.

Indeed, this is primarily the work of families, and in most cases it is well done. However, the drop-out rates in our high schools and universities is of grave concern to all of us, as well as the recidivism within our prison system. Obviously there is no one simple answer to address these costly situations which result in the loss of a well-formed workforce, but the cost of funding preschool education is well-spent as one possible deterrent to the far more costly programs of supporting adults unable to be employed due to lack of skills and training.

Among young children, the range of intellectual development and “readiness” for formal learning is broad. Early identification and intervention is essential for children who may struggle — for any number of reasons — with the traditional, and increasingly demanding curriculum of kindergarten and first grade. Preschool effectively paves the way for “readiness to learn.” Cooperation and teamwork — the very skills needed in many corporate business models — are emphasized, as well as simple individual readiness tasks such as sorting, counting, drawing, painting …. most of which young children love to do. Both outdoor and indoor play in a safe environment are components of a strong preschool opportunity.

For families who choose or must have both parents in the workforce as soon as possible, preschool programs allow a parent to enter or reenter the workforce with assurance that their children are in a safe and enriching environment which benefits not only the child, but the family and community as well. The promise of a healthy and enriching start to a young life with early exposure to community interactions can help to serve as a basis for a sound work ethic later in life.

Jamie Gaudion

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