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Early Years Column

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While education reform and the growing ranks of working mothers have fueled states' interest in early-childhood programs, most such efforts do not adequately link education and child care, a new book concludes.

The challenge facing policymakers is to create "enough good programs to satisfy the combined needs for child care and education" of all families, says the book, which analyzes the findings of a study launched in 1985 by the Bank Street College of Education and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

Such programs, it adds, should focus first on those "whose needs are greatest."

The book traces public-school involvement in preschool, describes state and local activity, and offers guidance on how to administer, finance, and integrate programs with existing services and make them responsive to families.

It also highlights the debate on educational approaches and eligibility standards.

Early Childhood Programs and the Public Schools: Between Promise and Practice is available for $27.95 in hardcover or $17.95 in paperback from Auburn House Publishing Company, 14 Dedham St., Dover, Mass. 02030-0658.


A majority of Americans believe employers should offer child care, but they disagree on what form such services should take and whether child care is harmful or beneficial, according to a new poll.

In a survey of 1,546 adults by The Washington Post and ABC News, 54 percent of respondents said employers should provide some form of child care; 53 percent called for child-care centers at or near the work site and 42 percent favored benefits to help workers pay for the provider of their choice. More than 60 percent said the government should offer child-care aid to low- and middle-income families.

Among parents with children under 14, 39 percent said child care has a negative effect, 22 percent said it is beneficial, and 36 percent said it has no effect. Forty percent of parents of preschoolers said child care has a negative effect, while just under a third found it beneficial.


The Erickson Institute has received a $450,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to recruit and train minority child-care professionals for inner-city neighborhoods.

Under the three-year award, the Chicago-based institute will provide postgraduate training in early-childhood education for selected minority educators.

Ten students have been chosen for the program so far. Their curriculum will include classroom study and field assignments.

California's Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig has named a task force to study elementary-school education there.

The 35-member task force, which includes principals, superintendents, teachers, linguists, and early-childhood specialists, will examine such issues as assessment and retention, changing demographics, technology, professional development, and parent and community support.


Washington State's Early-Childhood Education and Assistance Program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds has increased children's rate of learning at twice the rate of national norm groups with comparable family incomes, says a report from Gov. Booth Gardner.

The program, which has served more than 5,000 children since 1986, includes cognitive and social education, health and social services, and parent involvement and training.

According to the report, "Can Do Kids," participants' scores on vocabulary and readiness tests showed gains "significantly above what would be expected through normal maturation." In addition, it says, their ratings on social skills and maturity rose significantly during the program.


Two reports from the U.S. General Accounting Office offer data to guide debate on child-care bills pending in the Congress.

"Child Care: Selected Bibliography" cites articles, books, research studies, and papers on child-care topics.

"Head Start--Information on Sponsoring Organizations and Center Facilities" offers data on public and private organizations operating Head Start programs.

Both are available from the g.a.o., P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20877. Up to five copies are free; additional copies are $2 each.


If preschoolers ran their schools, "Big Bird" would be their teacher of choice.

More than half the respondents in a national survey by Playskool Inc. selected the character from television's "Sesame Street" as their top pick. The actors Bill Cosby and Michael J. Fox ranked second and third. President Bush tied with the comedienne Roseanne Barr for last place.

Asked how they would improve their schools, the children suggested installing seatbelts on buses, scheduling more play time, and turning teachers into toads.

Only 11 percent of the 200 4- to 6-year-olds polled by the Pawtucket, R.I., firm admitted to a yen for learning letters and numbers. Outdoor play was the preferred activity, while artistic activities ranked second.

The youngsters' favorite lunch item was dessert--with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the side.--dc

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