As children transition into kindergarten and then the early elementary grades, the quality of their early learning experiences becomes evident in their capacity and motivation to thrive in the classroom. Those who had the benefit of stimulating, supportive early interactions and environments are more likely to have developed the traits of character, conduct and intellect that enable them to listen attentively, understand and follow complex directions, moderate their behavior in social settings and read at an age-appropriate level.
Children lacking these skills often find themselves routed into special and remedial education and behavioral health services. These later interventions can mitigate, but are unlikely to erase, the consequences of inadequate learning and developmental experiences in the earliest, formative years of life.
Children are unlikely to show lasting cognitive and social-emotional gains when they enter kindergarten if they have not had consistent, high-quality learning and developmental experiences throughout infancy, toddlerhood and the preschool years. Similarly, early gains must be supported by coordinated, high-quality experiences in the early elementary grades if they are to persist later into the K-12 system.
Making the most of children’s early development means aligning our efforts both before and after children enter kindergarten to ensure that quality learning experiences are coordinated from birth through age 8 and, ideally, throughout their ongoing education.
Cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional and behavioral skills are conditioned by children’s learning environments, interactions and relationships before and after entry in the K-12 system. These skills are fundamentally interconnected and emerge in tandem, building upon one another as children progress from birth through age 8 and beyond.