The positive impact of high-quality early childhood programs on children's success in school and beyond has been well documented. Many studies have demonstrated the importance of the early years for the developing brain. And over the past four decades, numerous studies—including the Perry Preschool Study, the Abecedarian Project, the Chicago Longitudinal Study and the Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study—have shown that high-quality early childhood education increases the likelihood that children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will become successful students and citizens.
High-quality programs provide children with secure and caring relationships with educators and caregivers, stimulating learning opportunities and experiences that prepare them for the later school years. These programs are characterized by the following practices:
- Language-rich and responsive communication between adults and children;
- Positive and appropriate reinforcement of skills and behavior;
- Extensive rehearsal of old and new cognitive, academic and developmental skills;
- Guidance in desirable social skills and facilitation of positive interactions between peers and adults;
- Various structured and informal activities that encourage children to reflect, predict, question and hypothesize;
- Availability of numerous materials, resources and toys that focus on language and literacy;
- Activities that encourage the involvement of children's families and caretakers; and
- Incorporation of adequate nutrition and habits that will support good health.
After such rich and diverse experiences, children are better able to handle formal schooling. They succeed because they have language skills that are more developed, a better sense of group work and play with other children, and a grounding in other basic academic and social skills. They also have positive expectations about school.
Children who have gone through these programs also have more secure relationships with adults; these children are better equipped to follow directions and more likely to trust figures of authority and be able to communicate their needs. Young children are capable learners, and having these types of educational experiences during their preschool years makes it possible for them to learn at a faster rate, become better readers and, consequently, better students.