Why is Early Learning important?
Simply put, a child’s early years lay the foundation for all that is to come. In recent years, researchers have learned that the human brain develops the vast majority of its neurons, and is at its most receptive to learning, between birth and three years of age. In fact, the intake of new information is critical to the formation of active neural pathways (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).
Early education can play a critical role during this important developmental period. Research linking early intervention to both cognitive and socio-emotional gains has fueled the proliferation of early childhood programs since the early part of the twentieth century. The last four decades in particular have produced many new practices and principles for use in the classroom with young children, as well as countless books, videos, and activities to enrich the home environment. Several states have announced plans to implement universal preschool programs. In the last five years, the Federal government has produced several critically important books on early childhood education (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998) and has provided record contributions for the development and dissemination of effective practices.