Do Early Childhood Experiences Really Count?
Why question the value of early childhood experiences?
A new book, The Myth of the Early Years by Dr. John T. Bruer has raised questions about the importance of providing children with high-quality early childhood programs. From the author's perspective, recent publicity about early brain development research has led parents, educators, and policy makers to place too much emphasis on children's early learning experiences. He argues that neuroscience research actually provides evidence that learning and cognitive development occurs throughout life.
Dr. Bruer states that providing enriching environments to stimulate early brain development may be less important than identifying and treating children's vision problems, ear infections, or developmental delays.
What do high-quality programs do to support children’s healthy development and learning?
Early childhood professionals with training in child development are aware of the need to attend to all aspects of children's development. Good programs offer activities and services to promote each child's physical, social, and emotional development, as well as children's cognitive development. They also provide the support that families need to ensure the well-being of their children.
What does research tell us?
ZERO TO THREE, a leading organization that focuses on early child development responded to Bruer's book stating, "We know from rigorous psychological and sociological research, and from compelling clinical experience, that early childhood is a time when infants and toddlers acquire many skills needed to become productive, happy adults."
Researchers have found children who attend high-quality early childhood programs do gain skills normally associated with greater brain development, such as problem solving and language, math, and literacy skills. They also gain other kinds of competencies such as self-control, a higher motivation for learning and social skills. Families benefit too as they access needed services, develop parenting skills, and participate in an atmosphere that promotes meaningful family involvement.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. © 2008 NAEYC
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