Parents who remain concerned that all-day kindergartens will overtax their children should find their fears allayed by the experience of the Salem School District. Only one out of the 170 kindergartners in the district is not participating in the full-day program, and parents and teachers are pleased with the results. As many other communities have found, kindergarten helps children educationally and socially -- and with the right teachers is an enjoyable introduction to school and to learning.
For years, Ohio has lagged behind the national average in the percentage of school districts within the state offering all-day, every-day kindergarten, which may account for the resistance from some parents and some boards of education. But contemporary studies are showing increasingly that children who attend all-day kindergartens not only do better academically when they enter first grade, but they are more likely to get on better with other children, to enjoy learning and to be more creative.
Fun for children: And the worries that children spending all day at school will be too fatigued haven't been borne out. Good kindergarten programs are not of the regimented, sit-at-your-desk-and-be-quiet variety. Rather, effective kindergartens make time for child-initiated activities; involve children in first-hand experience and informal interaction with objects, other children, and adults; and offer a balance of small group, large group, and individual activities.
After all, kindergarten is a German word that means child-garden, a place where each child can bloom -- surely one of the most important objectives of primary education.
Ohio Gov. Robert Taft also sees the importance of all-day, every-day kindergarten in moving Ohio "to the head of the class" educationally. Thus, in his 2001 State of the State address he said, "There is strong evidence that all-day kindergarten helps ensure student success" and called for "offer[ing] state funding for all-day kindergarten for more than 50 additional school districts and approximately 12,000 children."
School districts do need those extra funds. Salem's Superintendent Dave Brobeck said that his district's program needed to add five more teachers to the kindergarten staff. It's costing the district about $45,000 to place all-day kindergarten on its curriculum.
That's why state support is so essential.
Children who learn to read in kindergarten are more likely to keep reading as they get older and as a result will be able to do better in every other subject where they must read to understand. Successful children are happy children. Happy children make for happy parents.