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New Report : Pre-K + Half Day K = Reading Success

In early November the National School Boards Association's Center for Public Education released a report showing that children who attended pre-K plus half-day kindergarten were more likely to read at high levels by the third grade than children who attended only full-day kindergarten.

The impact of pre-K plus half-day kindergarten was greatest for low-income children, English-language learners, Hispanics and African-American children.

While the report did not examine the quality of the programs attended, the impact appears to exist regardless of program quality.

Longtime Santa Cruz Toddler Center Built on Respect for the Child

Santa Cruz locals consider the Santa Cruz Toddler Center to be a community treasure. Founded in 1976 by Catherine Boxer and Kate Kelly, the center is a nonprofit childcare serving 1- and 2-year-olds, with sliding scale fees, and a ratio of 4 tots per teacher. The city and county of Santa Cruz contributes about 25 percent of the center's operating costs.

The center's programs are built on the philosophy of Magda Gerber, founder of the Resources for Infant Educarers program.The key to the philosophy is respect for children, Director Nora Caruso said. http://http://www.rie.org/

According to the third edition of a book the center publishes, printed last year, "1, 2, 3... The Toddler Years," that means treating children as individuals whose thoughts, feelings and needs are important; giving them the chance to grow and learn at their own pace, and allowing them freedom to create and master their own challenges.http://http://www.amazon.com/One-Two-Three-Toddler-Years/dp/0940953234

Child-Teacher Interaction Improves Academic Performance

A new study appearing in the September/October 2010 issue of Child Development finds that pre-kindergartners who spend much of their day in unstructured free-choice play make smaller gains in language and math skills than children who receive input from teachers in a range of different activity settings.

The study also determined that low-income children benefit particularly when a higher proportion of their time is spent in individual instruction settings.

"If early childhood education is to level the playing field by stimulating children's academic development, more quality instructional time spent with teachers and less free play time without teacher guidance may prepare children better for starting kindergarten," according to Nina C. Chien, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego, who led the study.
Chien points out that it's not a matter of play versus instruction. She notes that teachers can impact children during play by asking thought-provoking questions or using new words to describe what the children are doing. It appears that play without such teacher input doesn't support learning to the same extent.

The Importance of Outdoor Play

A new book by author Richard Louv entitled Last Child in the Woods, describes what happens when young children don't spend enough time playing outdoors. He cites research showing that a lack of unstructured outdoor play leads to depression, attention disorders and increases in obesity.

Since the dawn of time children spent much of their day playing or working outdoors. It is only within the past thirty years, in Western society, that this has changed. The reasons are many, including fewer "green spaces" and natural settings, television, computers and organized indoor activities. Add to this the constant media warnings of the dangers of strangers, mosquitoes, ticks, polluted water, etc. and we find more and more kids spending less time outdoors.

It is important for children to spend time outdoors without a planned agenda because those that do:

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