Level the Learning Field

By Diane Fisher

Meet Emily and Sammy, two 5-year-olds in one of your schools.

Emily's parents have read to her from conception. Her bookshelves are crammed with children's literature, her refrigerator door is covered with magnetic letters, and she and her neighborhood librarian are on a first-name basis. As a result, she has mastered the alphabet and the letters' corresponding sounds, recognizes several words at sight, and has excellent book-handling skills.

At restaurants, Emily's parents allow her to "read" the children's menu. On trips to the zoo, she is given a map of her own and encouraged to find the way to the elephant's house. When she accompanies her dad to the grocery store, she makes her own list to take along. She has spent the past three years in a university laboratory preschool program with well-educated, dedicated early childhood professionals as her teachers.

Emily has entered school with a wealth of literacy experiences. She already sees herself as a reader and writer -- she is headed for school success.

Sammy's single mom is busy working two jobs to provide as best she can for her son in the hope that he will not have to struggle as she has. Sammy attends a local day care center, chosen because it fits the family's budget. Although the center's caregivers are friendly and seem to enjoy their work, they have not had formal training in early childhood education. 

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