To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.
DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Introduction O ver the last few centuries, early childhood education—the instruction of young children outside the home—has become an internationally accepted level of schooling. Yet the first years of life are unique in that they include the most accelerated pace of physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth and development of all stages of the human life cycle. Consider the progress from a squalling bundle of wants at birth to a walking, talking, socially adept child by age five or six. These rapid changes make it necessary to take growth and development into greater account in the education of this age group than any other level of pedagogy. It was John Amos Comenius in the seventeenth century who not only first recog- nized the educational importance of the early years but also articulated the teach- ing practices, skills, and subject matter most appropriate for this age group. First and foremost, he argued that both child rearing and education should be adapted to the growing abilities, needs, and interests of the child. In accord with this principle, he contended that subjects should be presented from the simple to the complex and in a way that is made interesting and enjoyable to the student. He was also adamant that education should be for everyone, male and female from whatever station in life, and for those of limited as well as exceptional ability. These ideas were progressively elaborated, articulated, and given philosophical, practical, research, and theoretical support by those individuals whom I am calling the Giants of early childhood education. The work of these Giants further clarified, extended, and enriched Comenius’s original vision of child-centered education. To be sure, early childhood was not the major concern of many of the Giants. None- theless, they all recognized, in their own ways and from their own perspectives, the crucial importance of age-appropriate child-rearing and early childhood instruc- tion for later healthy development. Yet despite four centuries of arguments for con- structing pedagogy in accordance with the psychology of the developing child at all age levels, this idea has yet to be fully implemented. 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL