The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a national report Tuesday that spells out the importance of social and emotional lessons in preparing children for kindergarten.
The report does not dismiss the need for children to know numbers, colors and the alphabet, but it contends that those subjects come easier to youngsters who know how to tolerate frustration, follow instructions and pay attention.
"As one kindergarten teacher put it, `The problem is that children are sad, mad and bad -- not that they can't add,' " said Ross Thompson, a psychology professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln who participated in a news conference to announce the report.
The report's title is "Set for Success: Building a Strong Foundation for School Readiness Based on the Social-Emotional Development of Young Children."
Without quoting numbers, Lisa Klein, senior program officer in early education at the Kauffman Foundation, said research into school success showed a direct link to the preparation children receive between birth and kindergarten.
Children who are not nurtured in stimulating activities by caring adults start school already behind their peers, Klein said.
The report calls for measures to strengthen relationships between children and caregivers, to reach out to children in high-risk families and to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.
The release comes as Congress debates the reauthorization of welfare-reform policies passed in 1996, including the child-care block-grant program.
Advocates want more funds to expand and improve early childhood education programs, which they say are vital to school readiness and success.
They warn that failure to provide quality programs can lead to social problems in early grades, poor academic performance later and even difficulty in the workplace in adult years.
"This is the next frontier for education reform," said Joan Lombardi, director of the Children's Project, a national advocacy group.
Lombardi, a former deputy assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, added that children often are hurt by high staff turnover and poor training in child-care centers.
"It is time for this country to step up," Lombardi said.
"If we don't do something, we are doing a great disservice to these children," she said. "We need to take advantage of what we know is a child's predisposition to learn."
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