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.