Higher and higher standards mean schools are expecting more of students earlier. Although many might remember learning the alphabet in kindergarten, today's 5-year-olds are expected to read.
That means that preschool is becoming more and more important, said Judi Whilden, owner of Sunrise Kids Pre--school and Child Care.
"Preschool prepares children for kindergarten socially, emotionally and academically," she said. "It makes the transition into kindergarten easier, and the easier the transition, the more success the child has, and the more success a child has, the higher their self-esteem."
Preschool gives children the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills as well as work on prekindergarten skills, such as letter and name recognition, beginning math and reading skills and communication skills.
"Because so many children are now in preschool, the ones who don't are at a severe disadvantage," Whilden said.
Early childhood professionals have recognized the importance of early education. That, connected with studies that show the effect of early intervention, gave birth to the Colorado Preschool Program -- an opportunity for at-risk children to attend preschool free of charge in an attempt to get them in the game as early as possible.
The philosophy is that young children who live in homes with young mothers, drug-addicted relatives, developmental disabilities or financial stress have many challenges to face -- being prepared for formal education shouldn't be one.
State funding is being turned into scholarships that will allow about 65 children to attend four half-days of preschool in one of three program participants in Craig.
"The whole program is based on finding those kids early and getting them into an education system and helping them make learning a priority," Moffat County Early Childhood Coor--dinator Sarah Hepworth said.
Applications are available at Sunrise and School Administration Building.
The application includes a questionnaire about the factors that put a child at risk. Some of those are:
- Living with a single parent
- Being born to a teenage parent
- Being homeless
- Family history of health or medical problems
- Family history of drug, alcohol or substance abuse
- Recent family crisis
- Poor social skills
- Growth or developmental delays
"The risk factors are identified as those things studies show that put children at risk for failure in the elementary school," Hepworth said. "Our goal is to find the most at-risk kids."
The criteria is weighted in the evaluation process so that the most at-risk children are awarded scholarships.
There will likely be a waiting list. It's not uncommon to see more than 100 applications, Hepworth said.
Applications are available at the Early Childhood Coalition, Sunrise Preschool, St. Mark's Preschool, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, Craig Mental Health, the Colorado Workforce Center or social services.
Scholarships are available for children who turn 3- or 4-years-old on or before Aug. 31.
Children are required to participate in a developmental screenings for the application process.
Those who qualify for a scholarship can attend preschool at the Early Childhood Center, Sunrise Kids Preschool and Child Care, or St. Mark's Preschool.
Whilden urges parents to tour all three facilities to find the best fit for them and their children.
"It really depends on their parents' needs and their child's," she said. "All the programs here are good, but all are different."
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.