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Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers
We know, moreover, that the resources (books, audio recordings, and the like) and activities (book reading, story telling, verbal interaction) to which children in higher-SES categories are exposed are strong correlates of cognitive development, and that SES is correlated with social and some forms of physical development as well. By the time children reach kindergarten, these differences are already noteworthy. If preschool programs are to help all children develop their potential in early years, those from less enriched environments will need opportunities to acquire the skills of those in more enriched environments, as well as to develop to the maximum the unique skill sets they bring to the formal school setting.
Children with disabilities vary as much as all children do in temperament, learning style, and family culture. In preschool, children with disabilities tend to have more extensive interactions with adults than with other children, which is the reverse of their age mates without disabilities. Children with disabilities are likely to initiate less often to other children and their initiations are more likely to be ignored. An adult who is responsive to the developmental needs of the child with disabilities will help facilitate relationships with other children. The inclusion of children with disabilities in child care settings is required by law, but beyond meeting the legal mandate, the addition of children with disabilities can add to the diversity, and thus the richness, of all children’s experience.
Regarding cultural background, there is a solid knowledge base on variations around the world in children’s social developmental pathways, such as those needed for collectivist values and those for societies that value independence and autonomy. In the United States, research is now being conducted on the various cultural groups that make up the population, for certain developmental psychologists are paying more careful attention to the influence of cultural background on the development of children’s social and emotional capacities. Research on cultural background and schooling identify many factors as important. Among these are the effects of the knowledge base, social organization (value placed on working quietly, acceptance of help from unfamiliar adults, etc), and social rules of conversation (child initiating, “wait” time, etc).