The Importance of Early Learning

Did you know that we were all born into the world ready to learn?

When we were born, we were ready to learn and take on the world. By age 5 we had already cultivated over 85% of our intellect, personality, and skills! Preschool allowed our brain the chance to maximize our ability to learn and make connections with the world around us. We all have experienced different things in our lives, through hands-on play we explored new opportunities, tested the unknown, and related what we didn’t know to what we already knew. This stage of learning helped to teach us the skills needed to be successful in school and in life.

Children from birth to age 5 need to be exposed to elements of early learning.

These elements include:

  • Learning to understand language
  • Developing early literacy skills
  • Solving problems
  • Interacting with others and their environment
  • Growing through exploration and creativity.

Early on experiences with learning helps to shape these elements. Some early experiences in life include being read to by a caregiver, associating movement with learning, and using visual stimuli to cultivate a learning atmosphere.

Parents who read with their children are helping to develop their children’s language skills, which will help prepare the children to become successful readers. Reading to children at an early age increases the vocabulary level which improves learning outcomes. Starting to read with children right after birth impacts how successful the child will be in school.

What are the benefits to having effective early learning?

University of Chicago Economic Professor James Heckman has created and researched The Heckman Equation. The Heckman Equation focuses on the importance of investing in people at an early age. Early interventions promotes schooling, reduces crime, fosters workforce productivity, and reduces the number of teenage pregnancies. Motivating and stimulating a child to engage in learning activities early in life, fosters the skills and abilities for them to succeed in social and economic aspects of adult life. They have found that early learning places value on acquired skills that reinforce the motivation to learn more. Another important concept they found was that mastering cognitive, social, and emotional skills early in life make learning more efficient and easier to continue throughout life. You can learn more about Heckman’s findings at

How might a family’s economic status play a role in how children learn early on?

The Wisconsin Council of Children and Families completed a watershed study that showed by the age of 3, the vocabulary learned by children from higher-income families was at 1,116 words; for the working class families the word count was about 740; and for low-income families the count was only at 525 words. Certain changes in society can account for these differences in learning such as an influx of mothers joining the workforce, and that a quarter of children live in single-parent families. But there are a lot of efforts in our community that make early learning opportunities available and accessible to all…

What can families do to help their children participate in early learning?

Born Learning Trails

The Oshkosh Area United Way along with many sponsors have put up two Born Learning Trails at Roe Park sponsored by Affinity and Bemis, and the other at Franklin School, which was sponsored by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Affinity. These trails help adults interact with children to boost language and literacy development through movement. These trails encourage families to interact with each other through 10 stations. One of these stations might ask them to jump, skip, hop, wiggle, sing, and make silly sounds while cultivating opportunities to learn about colors, shapes, words, and sounds. These Born Learning Trails are ready to use and are located at Roe Park (300 Washington Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54901) and Franklin School (1401 W 5th Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54902), so I encourage you to visit them!

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Another way families can help their preschoolers learn is to sign their child up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Through this program, children from birth to age 5, will receive a free book every month. This program encourages parents to read with their children and help them develop literacy skills to prepare them for school. For more information visit .

JumpStart’s Read for the Record

A national campaign in which families can get involved is JumpStart’s Read for the Record. On October 22, 2015, children and their parents can participate in the world’s largest shared reading experience. This year the book to read on this day is Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett. If you would like to sign up to participate in this event with your child the link is .

You can read this book online via computer, smart phone, or tablet for free at . They have an English and Spanish Version.


By:  Amanda Hammond, Oshkosh Area United Way Intern