The history of early childhood education in the United States usually begins with its European roots; However, it is important to note that Native Americans had a viable system of early childhood education with many aspects similar to the ancient Greeks.
The early history led to a two-tiered system of care and education for young children: (1) child care (day care) for families in lower socioeconomic levels and (2) kindergartens and nursery schools for middle- and upper-income families.
Early children education is richer due to the diversity represented in our society. The foremothers and forefathers of early childhood education in the United States are different in many ways, but they share an abiding love for children and the strong desire to provide the most motivational and beneficial programs possible for them.
Culturally diverse and language minority students face far greater challenges than their classmates. The child creates mechanisms for functioning in and perceiving the world through his or her first language.
The deficiencies that many children experience from birth to school age--in health care, nutrition, emotional support, and intellectual stimulation, for example--play a major role in academic achievement gaps that persist for years, as well as in behavior and other problems.
Professional service providers continue to search for new knowledge to inform their work. Consequently, one of the distinctive features of the science of early childhood development is the extent to which it evolves under the anxious and eager eyes of millions of families, policy makers, and service providers who seek authoritative guidance as they address the challenges of promoting the health and well-being of young children.
For those concerned with the issues presented by an increasingly diverse student population, preschool education has become a focal point of differing views about how best to accommodate the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in American society and to prepare children from diverse backgrounds for school success
In California, for example, a recent study of more than 400 child care centers revealed that only 4 percent enrolled children from a single racial group. Nationwide, estimates suggest that 20 percent of the children enrolled in Head Start speak a language other than English.
The first early childhood education services in this country had the primary aim of providing for disadvantaged children. The psychological and educational advantages of early childhood education services were soon seen to have benefits for all children and were increasingly recognised as providing support to families as well as education for their children.
All children should have access to early childhood programs with strong literacy components that include clear adaptations for children with special needs.