Terry McAuliffe approached about two dozen youngsters sitting in a semi-circle Thursday and asked, "Does anyone know what I'm running for?"
"Governor!" said 4-year-old Noah Vandruff.
McAuliffe asked if anyone knew what a governor does, and Noah quickly replied: "Make laws!"
McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for Virginia's governor, seemed satisfied and carefully sat in a tiny chair, clearly designed for the 2- to 5-year-olds enrolled at Little Ambassadors' Academy on Lee Highway in Arlington.
A teacher handed him a copy of "How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?" — which he was glad featured large-print — and commenced reading, pausing between most pages to show the children the dinos.
McAuliffe was at the preschool to talk with teachers and staff about early childhood development. After touring the facility with Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada and a brief discussion on the day's topic, he settled in to read to the children.
Patch quizzed him about the book afterward. He retained quite a bit: He said dinosaurs going to school are very respectful, don't bully, keep their desks tidy, don't roar and are good classmates.
One teacher who lives in Alexandria told McAuliffe that her son had an "amazing" transition into kindergarten because he had taken dual-language classes in preschool. But entering a school system with other students who hadn't had the same opportunity had caused him a slight setback, she said, and the children who hadn't learned any other language skills were even further behind.
Aside from how dinosaurs go to school, McAuliffe said he learned several things Thursday, particularly about how children who develop dual-language skills early can be lose those skills if they don't have access to a curriculum that continues to teach those skills in kindergarten through 12th grade.
He said much of the discussion reinforced what he believed.
"To come into this school and see these children... I wish I'd been doing that at 3 years old," he said.
Little Ambassadors' Academy has about 85 children enrolled, and they begin dual-language programs at age 2. The curriculum includes a healthy dose of outside time, where, for example, a community garden is used to help teach science.
Little Ambassadors' assistant director, Cissy Hart, told Patch that "it saddens me" that all children don't have the same preschool opportunities. The academy has a waiting list through 2016, she said.
Hart said she was glad to see someone come out to talk about the importance of early childhood development.
"It's important, and I don't think there's enough focus on it," she said.