If Idaho is considering adoption of a computer-driven preschool instructional program for 4-year-olds, it should reconsider. While it is true that the majority of Idaho’s preschoolers enter kindergarten without adequate preliteracy skills, 15 minutes per day on the computer — as proposed by Utah’s UPSTART experiment — will not substitute for or achieve the same results as high quality preschool.
The most important targets for preschool learning are language, cognitive, motor and social-emotional development. None of these are accomplished by moving a mouse. Rather, it is attentive adults who talk, take turns and narrate experience who are best at nurturing language, thought and self-awareness in young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly recommended that parents limit screen time and start talking to their children because preschoolers do not learn language from electronic devices. The first three years of life are critical for brain development, and brain development occurs in response to enriching experiences mediated by verbal, caring adults.
UPSTART may be cheap, but it will never substitute for preschool. It will not save our young children from long-term inequalities and enduring academic mediocrity — the real costs of ignoring the science of human development.
Louisa Moats, Sun Valley
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