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School Readiness: Will Your Child Be Ready for School?

Kindergarten and Elementary School Readiness for Children

Importance of School Readiness

The first five years are critical to a child's lifelong development. Early experiences influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem solving, social skills, behavior, and emotional intelligence—characteristics that often determine how well a child will do in school and in life.

Because early childhood is an important stage of any child’s life, parents share high expectations for early achievement, including school readiness. They want to ensure that their children enter school ready to meet or exceed academic expectations and with a demonstrable ability to apply their newly developing skills in reading, writing and math.

Teacher Perspectives on School Readiness

In a study conducted by Bright Horizons, elementary school teachers shared their views on what they believe to be the most important school readiness factors for any child to succeed in a public or private school setting:
  • Basic understanding of language and math concepts
  • Social readiness
  • Emotional preparedness
Teachers were unified in their feeling that children should enter their first years of school with an ability to comprehend broader language and math concepts, as well as to be prepared for the social and emotional demands of school.

Teachers agree that key indicators of a child’s social and emotional readiness for kindergarten and first grade are readiness to accept new responsibilities and greater independence, a strong enthusiasm for learning, an ability to make new friends, and the ability to respect others.

Common Myths About School Readiness

There's no reason for most parents to be anxious about preparing children for school. Children who come from homes where adults read, spend engaged time with their children, value literacy, and/or have some social interactions with other children in child care, playdates or groups, or preschool are usually well prepared for kindergarten.

But there are some common school readiness myths of which to be aware.

Myth #1 - Learning the ABC's is crucial to school readiness.
The Truth: While important, learning the ABC's is a memorization skill. It's more important that children recognize letters and identify their sounds to prepare for school.

Myth #2 - Children need to count to 50 before going to elementary school
The Truth: Again while it is important that children understand the order of numbers, when it comes to school readiness, it is far more important to understand the idea of 1-to-1 correspondence (each number counted corresponds to an object, person, etc.) and understanding quantity.

Myth #3 - The more teacher-directed the learning, the better.
The Truth: Children internalize concepts more fully when they are actively engaged in exploration and learning versus being told by someone else. Teachers should be there to guide learning.

Myth #4 - The more a program looks like the school we remember as a child the more children will learn. 
The Truth: Young child learn best in an environment that allows them to make choices, select their own materials for at least part of the day, and empowers them to try new things with a teacher who guides the learning.

Myth #5 - Children need quiet to learn
The Truth: Children need a language-rich environment where adults provide responsive language interactions and where vocabulary is regularly introduced.

Myth #6 - Learning to write is all about letter formation. 
The Truth: While letter formation is one part, even more important is understanding the idea of recording one's ideas on paper. When a child makes some scribbles and says, "this is my daddy," write your child's words on the picture, and she will begin to make connections between spoken and written words.

Learning some "school skills" like lining up and raising hands before transitioning to school will certainly help make the transition to formal schooling easier; however, the best way to get your kids ready for school is giving them the chance to fully explore and experiment in an environment with caring adults who guide, support, and extend their learning.

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