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Preschool Choices

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: How do I choose a good preschool? What are the characteristics of good preschool teachers? Are children who don't attend a five day preschool program unprepared for kindergarten?

A: You want to find a state-licensed preschool because it ensures that the facility has adequate space and staff and meets state safety requirements. Visit the national Child Care Resource and Referral Center site to find out how to contact your local center, which should have a list of licensed schools. You should also visit the website of the Right Choice for Kids, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children site to find a list of high- quality preschools accredited by this organization.

Your next step is to call prospective preschools to learn about their programs, operating hours, payment policies, and other essentials. Then make arrangements to see the schools. Don't choose a school without visiting it for a few hours.

During your visit, look for teachers who show a love of children and a dedication to their welfare. How do the teachers interact with the children? Teachers should gently guide and instruct them, answer their questions, and foster their self-confidence. Be sure to find out about the teachers' training and credentials.

The school's curriculum is very important. Avoid preschools that emphasize pen-and-pencil and teacher-directed activities, which can stifle a young child's love of learning. Make sure a school offers opportunities for your child to work alone and in groups, while balancing indoor and outdoor activities.

In selecting a school, consider carefully how your child will fit into the environment. If possible, have your child visit the school with you. And above all, choose a school in which the children are obviously having fun.

We don't believe that it's essential for children to attend preschool every day to be ready for kindergarten. Many children do well in kindergarten without ever attending preschool. What matters most is that the preschool experience helps your child gain an appreciation of what school is like and a positive attitude toward school.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


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