Regarding the June 20 column “Maine Voices: Prioritizing early childhood education would pay off for children, Maine,” I’m not sure I knew there was such thing as an alphabet when I entered first grade. I had attended kindergarten in a different state, where the focus was on social skills. With remedial help, though, I quickly caught up and was reading at the college level by eighth grade.

I value the excellence of my public education, but I also value my first five years of unstructured time. I learned to self-direct and to explore according to my natural bent. I learned to experience success that was personally meaningful to me, sans outside validation. Truly, my play was my work, as it is for all children.

It is erroneous to assert that something irretrievable is lost if a child doesn’t attend preschool, or to suggest the average parent can’t have their child prepared to start kindergarten.

For the deprived child, a quality preschool experience (which duplicates the healthy home environment, including lots of unstructured time) could result only in diminishing returns if the public schools are inadequate – which clearly many are, if the military is concerned that not enough young people are qualified to serve.

Early childhood education would be better focused on the elementary school years, when foundational skills can be established, which, in turn, develop the critical thinking skills that make for a capable adult ready to contribute to society.

Zoe Goody

Cape Elizabeth