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Say OK to Pre-K

by Cindy Tovar

I remember when preschool was carefree. All we did was play with blocks and sing songs, take naps, and eat snacks. Those were the good old days, when a child wasn’t expected to know very much upon entering kindergarten. Now, when a child walks into kindergarten for the first time, they need to know their ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s in order to keep up with the curriculum, as well as with their peers. For this reason, it concerns me when I hear that Latino enrollment in preschool declined between 2005 and 2009.

As you read this, you might shrug and ask, “How important is it to send children to preschool?” Oh, not that important. It only helps build the foundation for the rest of their academic career, and even the rest of their life! Being that I’m a preschool teacher, you may think I’m biased, but there is research to back me up.

So why aren’t Latinos taking their children to preschool? One reason may be that there aren’t any preschools near or in the areas where Latinos live. And if there are any, the classes are full and children are put on a waiting list.

Another possibility may be the less-than-friendly political climate surrounding Latino immigrants. Many immigrant families who are undocumented may be avoiding formal institutions because they fear deportation.

We can also speculate that due to the economy, some parents lost their jobs, and children were kept at home with an unemployed parent. However, this speaks to another pressing issue: that Latino families may not understand the importance of enrolling their children in an early childhood program.

Why bother to send a child to preschool when they can stay at home with tia or mami? As wonderful as these adults may be, they won’t be able to provide the same learning experiences for Miguelito as he would receive in a classroom. For example, in some households, children are still being taught that they are to be seen and not heard (I have seen this for myself). In these cases, when they get to a school setting, they may not understand why they are being asked so many questions about what they are thinking, seeing, or doing.  They may not understand that expressing themselves is a good thing in school.

Preschool teaches many things. It’s the perfect place to learn that whining and crying is not an effective way of getting what you want. Children learn to share, take turns, and follow directions. They learn to separate from their parents, and to trust that other people will take care of them. And yes, they will learn their ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s.

If we don’t send our kids to preschool, on their first day of kindergarten it will feel like they’re entering a race with a handicap: everyone else gets a head start, while our children linger around the starting line.

To learn more about Cindy, visit Dagny’s Dichotomy.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. nycgirl says:

    I think this is a great article working for a city agency I see how many people reject services for lack of knowledge or other barriers like immigration issues and it’s sad b/c their children usually need help and treatment, and many get referrals for early intervention programs and they reject the referrals. It is very frustrating at times b/c these services are in the best interest of their children’s health and intellecual well being. Pre K helps prepare children for school it teaches them the primary colors, shapes, animals, numbers, and most importantly as you mentioned it teaches them how to be independent, socialization skills, etc. Keeping a kid at home in front of the tv or to be seen and not “heard” isn’t encouraging and nuturing a child’s development. I was very traumatized when I entered kindergarten b/c I was at home not in a pre k setting and had a teacher who was mean to the students, and this caused me not to really like school until I entered the 1st grade and I sort of had to play catch up with everything. Your mother or aunt doesn’t have the training or sometimes even the patience to deal with your young child. The only problem with pre k is that some of them are expensive and the ones that are free aren’t full time programs for working parents.

  2. Andreas says:

    My kids didn’t go to preschool – I think it’s a waste of time and money. They did exceptionally well in Kindergarten (1 is just completing K and reads at a 3rd grade level, 1 is completing 1st grade and tops her class in math, reading, language/arts).

  3. Clara-Lee says:

    I agree with this article but I have a different reason as well. Had it not been for Headstart and Pre-K I would’ve walked into Kindergarden not knowing a bit of English. As a 3 year old I picked it up quick in the classroom but if I would’ve gone to kindergarden not being able to speak English I probably would’ve gotten lost and they probably would’ve tossed me in the ESL class the following year and from what I remember they taught 1st-3rd grade in one classroom and 4th to 6th in another so I would have been very behind in my education. So thank God for Pre-K!! :)

  4. This is an amazing article!! I have a three year old niece that was in pre-k while her mother was working and my mother in-law repeatedly kept her home from school not understanding the damage that is being done. Now that my niece’s mother isn’t working again she has un-enrolled my niece from school. While my husband & I fought about how important an education is, it always went on deaf ears. I just pray that my niece understands how important school is and will go far beyond her mother.

  5. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    Andreas — first, congratulations on having children reading above grade level and doing well in other subjects. That’s great. But I am shocked that any attempt at educating, enlightening and socializing our children would be discarded as “a waste of time and money.” So your kids are doing fine without Pre-K; imagine how much more advanced they could’ve been with it! If money was the issue, find a free or low-cost program. When it comes to time-wasters, learning the building blocks of formal education pales in comparison to things like T.V., video games, computer games, etc. that most children regularly engage in.

  6. Great article Nicole!! I have a two-year-old and I am looking into pre K schools in my area. They are quite difficult to find. I’m a full time working Mother and my time with my daughter is limited to evenings and weekends. I am a strong believer in Pre K and Headstart programs. Nothing is more important in my daughter’s life as a well trained brain and it is MY responsibility to make sure she’s in tip top shape. Thanks for sharing!

  7. My apologies Cindy!!! I read too fast :/

  8. nycgirl says:

    You know what the screwed up thing is Latinos are their own worst enemy we complain about issues or how we lack certain resources yet priorities aren’t where they should be education is very important and I know day care can be cost it is an investment in your child’s future and academic success yet you see the ones who claim not to have money sporting coach bags expensive sneakers clothes and strolllers that cost half a months rent yet they swipe an ebt card and dress better than some working ppl but education isn’t a priority to them I overheard two teens about16 saying that their mother told her it was ok to get married at 17 have a child and she boasted on how she can cook and run a house totally pathetic how this mother can actually not want her kid to do more and be more. Some ppl persevere and some settle for the same ol shit and then have the nerve to whine and complain

  9. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    Oh, nycgirl. Just when you start to make some strong points and actually have me in your corner, you go off on some random and ignorant tangent and ruin it!

    So someone swiping an EBT card has nice shoes. Um, so what? Is there some rule in the food-stamp policy that says only people who take no pride in their appearance are eligible for assistance? Is shopping at thrift shops or Family Dollar for clothes a prerequisite? For one thing, many of those “coach” bags are knockoffs — granted, some knockoffs are very genuine looking, but are still not “the real deal” and thus cost much less. And even assuming they are “real,” it’s been shown time and again that people who lack substantial resources in areas like real estate and bankable assets, will instead invest in the still-costly but much-less-so areas of fashion, vehicle accessories, etc. Where do you think the term “ghetto fabulous” originates? If you live in sub-standard conditions or struggle to put food on the table, psychologically you may be more apt to pursue nice rims for your ride or a cool pair of designer sunglasses that can boost your confidence outside of the home. Just like the reverse, wealthy people who dress down, do so because they are secure in their economic stability and don’t need to “flaunt it” through wardrobe or vehicle choices.

    And how can you knock someone for investing in “strollers that cost half a month’s rent”? For all you know, it was a babyshower gift! And more parents should invest in sturdy, reliable items for their children. Would you feel better if the parent with an EBT card also had their child in a raggedy, ripped, hand-me-down stroller that was recalled two years earlier?

  10. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    Oh, and also “swipe an EBT card [but] dress better than some working people” ??? What are you saying — that if you get food stamps that automatically means you don’t have a job? That people with EBT cards are a separate group from “working people”? Newsflash: most public assistance programs actually REQUIRE you to work or engage in a work-related activity (such as school, job search, life sklls classes, etc). The “welfare queen” stereotype of someone lounging around racking up benefits while watching soaps all day is so inaccurate and SO OVER!

    For several years, I was a full time college student (a job in and of itself) AND I worked 30 hours a week, but I still needed food stamps to help make ends meet. Having and EBT card didn’t mean I wasn’t working my ass off. But I guarantee that I still took pride in my appearance, and my kids still had the “coolest” clothes, accesories, hairstyles, etc. Y que? Now that my income has gone up and I don’t qualify for assistance, I’m paying taxes to support those same programs. So today’s well-dressed food-stamp recipient will likely be the person paying into assistance programs and keeping them viable in the future.

  11. nycgirl says:

    There you go with your name calling and judgements about me. It is amazing how you can be a blogger b/c you act like an idiot. You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying but to call me ignorant, you’re way out of line. I’m commenting on what I’ve seen in my own community and on my daily rides to and from work. $750 for a stroller? If you want to pay it go right ahead, I sure don’t have to. This is a harsh reality whether you agree or you don’t I couldn’t care less so do me a favor and stop wasting my time. I’ve ALSO used WIC and medicaid WHEN I NEEDED IT. I never said a kid should walk around in a ripped up unsafe stroller but people need to be more financially responsible and investing in things like that when you don’t have the income to support it is not smart. I take pride in mine and my child’s appearance but I don’t live above my means THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE!!!! You don’t know me or anything about so stop judging me and why don’t you act like you have some class and respect. I also ask that you don’t reply to any more of my comments you’re an annoying person and I will report you the BL coordinator for harrassment if you continue to do so.

  12. mrsjvb says:

    Thank you for this article. I agree that we are in a very precarious position when it comes to our education. I grew up an inner city kid (from Queens) when to public school and it was not easy to get out of “the hood” and make a life for myself. I am currently trying to get my children enrolled in a pre-school program that will provide them with both the academic opportunities as well as to teach them to be good citizens. I find myself in a completely different situation from my mother and some of my friends which is I can afford to spend the money on a great pre-school program. What do the families do when tuition are out of their reach? I know there are free programs but as you mentioned there are usually lengthy waiting lists. My children (boy/girl twins) are 2 years 4 months – they recognize letters and numbers and can both count to 15. It is up to us as parents to instill the value of learning… of being curious in our children at a young age.

    To pull on the other thread on “ghetto fabulousness” because I found it fascinating. While I think dressing for success is great and keeping oneself neat and clean is great and completely appropriate – it doesn’t mean you should be living above your means. “Ghetto fabulousness” will affect your credit score, will affect your purchasing power down the line and more importantly will keep you in the ghetto longer. That in it of itself will create a cycle which your children may become a part of – poor education systems, crime etc.

    I know of where I speak because it took me a long time to recover from my irresponsible ways – it kept me poor longer than I should have been and kept me from going to college at the right time. My mother, bless her heart, always found a way to buy “that shiny thing” we wanted, but what I didn’t see is that it was being taken from rent money or bills that need to be paid. You are fooling yourself if you think people that live in the ghetto’s of queens or other such places have money to give others $700 strollers as baby shower gifts- and if they do I’m sorry but it is all show and one bill or another is not being paid. May not be true 100% of the time but I promise it is true about 85% of the time. I recently saw a FB post from a friend who lives in the Bronx- he says something along the lines of “I’m at the supermarket buying groceries for my family and there is this girl in front of me wearing brand new sneakers, with a new iPhone 4 and a coach bag buying 3 times the groceries I’m buying with her EBT card. My tax dollars are going to her families food so she could spend money on a brand new iPhone” There are about 5 things wrong with this scenario. Not to say that people should walk around tattered and dirty but a brand new iPhone … really??? I don’t even have one. That to me is money spent on dumbsh*t that you don’t need when rent needs to be paid and bills are sitting on the table – because while i don’t know their life or their situation- I know that my tax dollars are indirectly paying for that iPhone and those new jordans and that real or fake coach bag just by virtue of the fact that they are receiving assistance.

    What I have learned from my fantastic husband is to be money conscious all the time. When I tell him I the exact shoes I wanted for 60% off he tells me they would be 100% off if I didn’t buy them… do I really need another pair of black shoes? no. So I move on. Living with him has been like financial rehab and while I’m not completely financially sober I’m very well on my way. Teaching my children ABCs and 123s with flashcards are important to their development but teaching them financial security will ensure their future.

  13. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    You call me an “annoying” “idiot” with no “class or respect” yet accuse me of being out of line? Posting comments on a public forum specifically designed to encourage debate and discourse, hardly qualifies for harassment. Newsflash: it’s a generally accepted philosophy that if you can’t handle someone reading and responding to your comments, don’t post them on an open and public forum. So, feel free to “report me [to] the BL coordinator” — trust me, anybody who regularly peruses the site is already familiar with your issues/concerns/claims/beef. But keep in mind, this is an online community, not your local Wal-Mart where you can run to the customer service line if you think your cashier looked at you funny.

    However I will take your friendly advice and refrain from responding to any more of your comments; it is clear that they fall upon deaf ears and thus contradict the atmosphere of growth and learning that Being Latino strives to promote. And frankly you’re no longer worth the effort.

    Happy reading!

  14. nycgirl says:

    @mrs jvb very well stated point

  15. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    mrsjbv, your husband is my idol! (“100% off if you don’t buy them” is now officially my new favorite line) :)

    You make some good points for sure, but I think there is a fine line between “living above your means” and not being allowed to have any nice posessions because you have an EBT card. The points you made about credit and debt in general and prioritizing purchases is something that spans all socio-economic levels, and is good advice at any income level (for example, I always marvel at those Oprah specials where a family of three on $250,000 a year are ready to file bankruptcy due to out-of-control spending.)

    And I wasn’t literally suggesting that people gift each other $700 strollers (and in fact, I don’t believe I have ever actually seen a stroller that pricey in ‘real life’, being used by anybody with OR without an EBT card). My point was more that you never know anybody’s personal story or circumstances, and should not make gross generalizations simply because you see them using food stamps. The economic struggles of the past years have more than ever shown that there is not one “face of poverty.” While we may resent someone having food stamps AND the latest gadget, while we ourselves may scrimp and save to pay for our own groceries, who are we to judge that person as unemployed, or debt-ridden, etc. You can have a six-figure income one day, staying well within your means when purchasing a designer purse, and be laid off and thus eligible for emergency food stamps the next…

    BUT, to get back to the original article LOL…

    It’s clear that many parents recognize the value of pre-K education and the advantage it can give their children. Unfortunately it is not always easily accesible even for those who appreciate its merit. A future article, perhaps?

  16. Andreas says:

    Hi Nancy – Thanks for the complement – I am very proud of them! In my opinion (I’m a psychologist, but not a child psychologist), children ages 1 – 4 do much better at home, learning how to form relationships with their families and establishing their basic values. My children (and most of those in her class) were lucky enough to be able to stay home in their formative years. We picked the school our kids go to because of their reputation as one of the best schools in the country, with a 100% graduation rate, 100% of graduates go on to college, 65% to Ivy League. One of the things that they stressed to us before accepting our girls into K was that their math/reading skills will not determine whether or not they move on to the next grade, but their level of maturity, advancement of fine and gross motor skills and social skills. Regardless of whether or not a child is reading prior to Kindergarten, ALL children catch up and level out by 5th grade. However, by this point, their value system has already been established. The question is – do YOU want to be the one to guide their value system or do you want the school to do it. In our case, we decided that it was more important for our children to know who they were and learn their culture before we emersed them into school.

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