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State Looks for a Running Start in Preschool


Count to 10. Recognize circles, squares and triangles. Read letters in alphabet books. Recite familiar poems.

These are some of the skills that California's children should practice even before they enter kindergarten, according to new state Department of Education guidelines.

Although the guidelines are optional, the state is strongly urging their use in public and private preschools. They will be sent this fall to all school districts, licensed child-care centers and family child-care providers.

The guidelines indicate how seriously many education experts are taking preschool these days. California's stringent new academic standards require far more of kindergartners than in the past, and educators say that demands more rigor in preschool.

Delaine Eastin, state superintendent of public instruction, views the guidelines as a key element of her costly statewide plan to expand good preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds.

"Universal preschool is our nation's next step to ensuring high quality educational access," she said in a statement.

The guidelines say preschoolers should be able to "read" books right side up and from front to back. By the end of kindergarten, state standards dictate that they should be able to identify a book's front cover, back cover and title page.

Noting that children's informal mathematical knowledge develops rapidly during the preschool years, the guidelines call on teachers to weave counting and pattern exercises into activities.

Portions of the guidelines will be available by Sept. 1 on the state Department of Education Web site: For more information, call the department at (916) 323-5089.

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