Two toddlers play at a Save the Children supported daycare center.
I absolutely love learning. That’s why during my first year at American University, I knew I had to share my love with a class of young kiddos. That’s how I eventually landed at Cedar Tree Academy, teaching to three-year olds in Washington, D.C.’s 8th Ward, where about half of the children live in poverty (Census Reporter 2017).
Jumpstart is a federally funded early education program that employs college students to teach aftercare programs in qualifying schools, like Cedar Tree. This program was a perfect opportunity for me to see the intersection of education and government in action, since that is my area of academic focus.
We know that children are expected to have a certain level of social-emotional and literacy capabilities before entering kindergarten. The earlier kids can start their education, the more likely they are to be ready for kindergarten and beyond. More importantly, high-quality early learning programs can give them the confidence they need to be successful.
The curriculum I taught at Cedar Tree emphasized early literacy skills and social-emotional learning. Each week, we’d frame a lesson based on a book we’d read together. Seeing the power that early literacy had on these kids was fascinating. I realized how unique, curious and affectionate my students were. As the year went on, my students began expressing their own emotions, like the characters in the books we read, and they were able to remember new vocabulary words.
I am so thankful that the kids in my class had resources available to them, but I know there is way more that needs to be done for kids when it comes to quality early learning. There are kids just like my students all over the United States entering kindergarten without the social-emotional, phonetic and vocabulary skills that they need to succeed. It’s up to us to make sure they get the future they deserve by using our voices for kids.