As a former professor and someone who was in school for a very, very, very long time — education is important to me. So important that I took the time to teach both of my children how to read, write, and do arithmetic before they started kindergarten. Many morning sessions at the coffee shop and evenings at the kitchen table… and many great memories!
Why would I invest so much time and effort into something they’d get in a year or two anyway?
There’s a strong perception out there that what you can’t see doesn’t exist. For learning, this manifests as what you can’t measure doesn’t exist. The belief is that you shouldn’t teach someone until they’re “ready” to learn it. What I learned studying Computational Neuroscience and other research tells a slightly different story.
While it’s true that children go through developmental stages which define certain concepts that they’re able to grasp, the brain is ALWAYS learning. Think of it like a hand pump. When you first start cranking the handle, you may not see evidence that anything is happening. But as you pump water is moving up the column until eventually you can “see” the fruit of your labor as water finally comes out of the pump. In much the same way, exposing children to ideas and information primes the pump. When they are developmentally ready, you see the effect of that priming in terms of increased capacity to learn and abilities shown on assessments.
That’s why Universal Pre-K is so important. Getting children into an enriching environment where they’re being exposed to books, numbers, and other activities designed to prime their little minds has an outsized effect on their lifetime outcomes and achievements. If we want to close the achievement gap and increase diversity in leadership positions, we have to start doing so as early as possible.