Eskenazi Health pediatrician
A large and growing body of research shows that investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten education yields a variety of benefits for children, schools and communities. So what constitutes a quality pre-K program?
Parents should choose a learning center where they immediately see children reading or having books read to them, according to the Center for Public Education. Another important factor in choosing a successful pre-K is when you see teachers guiding learning and you notice that the room has a sense of organization, excitement and purpose.
Quality pre-K programs can be found in a variety of settings, including schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, Head Starts and public and private child-care centers.
An important similarity found with the best pre-K operations is a commitment to the whole child and family, with the understanding that a child cannot learn and grow if they’re undernourished or have difficulties communicating.
All pre-K programs should offer screenings for children’s vision, hearing and general health to recognize problems and arrange for appropriate referrals as soon as possible. Pre-K programs should have in place access to social services and information about proper nutrition, parenting and family support, and they should also provide children breakfast and/or lunch in order to ensure proper nutrition.
By taking an active role in their child’s pre-K program, parents are more in tune with their children’s health at home and at their pre-school. Family members should be offered ways to be involved in the pre-K program such as parent conferences, assisting in the classroom or coming to class with their child.
Successful pre-K programs recognize and appreciate that family members are respected as a child’s first and most important educators and lead monitors of their health. Parents and educators should work as a united front in developing a well-rounded and healthy child ready to successfully advance to kindergarten and beyond.
An outstanding local program is On My Way Pre-K, where applications are available for grants to eligible local children who will be 4 years old but not yet 5 on Aug. 1, and will be attending kindergarten in the 2018-19 school year. Marion County is the only local county taking part in the pilot program. Visit www.in.gov/fssa/carefinder/4932.htm for more information.