Prekindergarten is an essential first step in a child’s educational journey. Pre-K provides little learners with valuable skills and prepares them for future success – in school and later in life. These programs are often where a child will experience the classroom environment for the first time. This experience sets the stage for a lifetime of learning.
“That’s why Pre-K matters, and why every child belongs in a high-quality program,” said Rachel Roberts, Executive Director of KRESA’s early childhood programs, including Head Start and the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). “These programs are welcoming, inclusive and safe. They ensure our youngest learners have access to programming that will positively impact the rest of their lives.”
Studies consistently show that students who attend Pre-K do better in school overall. They develop valuable math and language skills that make the transition to kindergarten easier. Students also learn social-emotional skills. These complex skills help learners make friends, resolve conflict, manage their feelings, take care of their own needs, and resist negative social pressure.
Another important component of high-quality Pre-K is exploration or play. “Play is fun, but it’s more than that,” Roberts said. “These programs make exploration and play a priority, which encourages a child to observe their environment, interact with the materials in their surroundings, and take ownership of their learning. Play also increases physical development such as fine and gross motor skills.” Play is an avenue to deepen learning and improve executive functioning skills while providing independence and autonomy, she said.
Like learning through play, there are other benefits that are best experienced in person in a prekindergarten classroom, Roberts said. Pre-K allows teachers to identify and support students who may need additional help achieving educational milestones. “The sooner we can offer support, the better the outcome,” Roberts said. As a result, children who attend Pre-K are less likely to need special education services in the future.
Enrollment is open now for children who will turn three or four years old by Dec. 1, 2023. Families are encouraged to complete the online application at www.dreambigstartsmall.org, where they will be considered for all Kalamazoo County Pre-K programs, including Head Start, GSRP and KC Ready 4s. Programs are free or low-cost for families, and potty training is not required. For questions, call (269) 250-9333.