Let’s Keep Preschool Play-Based and Developmentally Appropriate

Parents Across America board member and leader of Parents Across America-Roanoke Valley, Laura Bowman, attended a listening session yesterday headlined by the Commissioner of Virginia Department of Social Services and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The focus of the session was school readiness for Virginia’s at-risk three and four year olds.

In July, 2019, Virginia’s Governor signed an executive order establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness. The Team is responsible for creating recommendations that would unify Virginia early childhood systems that receive public funding and ensure all of Virginia’s at-risk three and four year olds are given access to subsidized preschool and care by the year 2025. The full text of the order is found here. It should be noted that there is no push for compulsory preschool in the Governor’s executive order. Many parents across the state (and nation) are struggling with the costs of preschool, child care, and after school care for their children. The Executive Leadership Team will inform legislation in the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session where they will ask for consolidated oversight and administration of programs across Virginia.

Laura submitted the following remarks to the Executive Leadership Team via email. Public input is being requested by the Team using the following email address: info@vecf.org.

Parents Across America is grateful to our friends at Defending the Early Years for their Early Childhood Activist Tool Kit, found here. Their website is full of resources and strategies for anyone to to use when advocating for the best interests of young children.

Dear Executive Leadership Team,

I’m Laura Bowman and I’m on the board of Parents Across America, a national child and public school advocacy organization. Thank you for asking for input on Virginia’s school readiness platform. My comments are focused on keeping preschool developmentally appropriate for Virginia’s littles.

Sadly, we’ve seen kindergarten become the new first grade and increasingly, Pre-K has become the new kindergarten.  The push to read too early exemplifies this and there is no research to support direct reading instruction in preschool or kindergarten.

We’re seeing a loss of play-based learning in the early years. Children need and deserve hands-on activities that focus on imagination and creativity.

Parents are concerned that preschool now means more standards and assessment-based classrooms versus child-centered environments focused on the here and now of childhood.

My own child started his high school journey on Monday. I fondly remember his preschool days. He went for a few hours a day and yes, a bit of time was spent learning his ABCs, 123s, colors, and shapes, but there was no push for the drilling of skills. He wasn’t expected to hold a pencil or sound out letters or words. There was ample time for puzzles and puppets and the playground. He colored, painted, and had a snack and a rest. It was a place where he had fun while learning how to share, take turns, and listen during story time. Please don’t take these experiences away from Virginia’s littles.

Last week, Early Learning Indiana and the Indianapolis Business Journal held a conference. The promotional materials and power point presentation included a visual of a child, first as a baby on its stomach, then crawling, then standing. The accompanying text was deeply troubling to me. It said, “How we’re failing tomorrow’s workforce. Playtime is over.” I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Playtime is over in Indiana for children under the age of five? They must be focused on career and college before they even learn to tie their shoes?

I urge you to pump the brakes here in Virginia. Please don’t acquiesce to the demands of industry or higher education and sell out our children and their childhoods. Please listen to experts in early childhood development, not business leaders with a profit driven agenda. Please don’t view our littles as future workers in production. It’s not a coincidence that, as we’ve seen a decrease in play in the early years, we’ve seen a rise in anxiety and depression in the later years. Please preserve childhood; it’s fleeting and it’s every child’s right to fully experience it.

We absolutely should provide opportunities for high quality, play-based preschool for parents who want it for their children. We must also strive to provide families with high quality, affordable child care and after school care when needed. We must focus on affordable health care and housing. We must ensure our public schools are fully and fairly funded. By better addressing inequities in our state, we better support families, and when we do this, we help provide healthy, happy spaces for children to learn and grow in, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to more than just leaders of business and industry. They’re looking out for their bottom lines, not the best interests of our little ones who need and deserve developmentally appropriate spaces to play, learn, and grow in.

In the words of Mr. Fred Rogers: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” We would do well to remember this and also the words of doctor and author, Kay Redfield Jamison: “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”

Thank you,

Laura Bowman

Parents Across America

Here is the image Laura referred to in her email. It’s taken from the
Indianapolis Business Journal’s Twitter feed. This is simply unacceptable.

Posted on by Laura Bowman Posted in Misc

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