The informal learning that happens at home from birth to age three is crucially important to later school success. A study of over 3000 children in California showed that kindergarten readiness, or the academic and social knowledge children bring to early schooling, predicts not only kindergarten success, but also success in later grades.
Preschool children who scored high on a readiness scale also achieved high scores on state reading and math assessments in third grade. According to the researchers, “The strong associations between school readiness and later school performance underscore the need to help children begin their learning long before they enter kindergarten.”
Parents Develop School Readiness at Home
So, what can a parent do to help children prepare for kindergarten? The Urban Child Institute cautions that discrete skills, such as counting to 20 and knowing some letters of the alphabet, constitute only a small portion of what children need to learn. More important are character traits that define a learner, such as curiosity, self-regulation and patience, listening, asking questions, and being both an independent learner and someone who can work well with others.
Here are ways to develop these readiness skills in your child:
- Talk to your child … and show him or her how to listen. Communication skills are vitally important. A child will need to communicate his or her thoughts and ideas to the teacher and be able to ask for help. Additionally, the National Education Association (NEA) reminds parents that “listening and speaking are the first steps to reading and writing.” Children who are are on the receiving end of converations learn significantly more and complex vocabulary than those who are not; and early vocabulary knowledge directly correlates to later reading success.
- Foster curiosity. Make sure your home is safe for your children to explore. Let them explore nature – and get dirty doing it. Help them experiment to find the answers to their own questions. For example, instead of telling them that red and blue make purple, let them mix their own paints – even if they end up with a lot of brown.
- Set limits, create routines, and encourage your child to finish frustrating tasks once they’ve started them. In the California study mentioned earlier, children who came into kindergarten with both academic and self-regulation skills not only performed better in kindergarten, but were still performing better at the end of third grade. Children who possessed those skills at kindergarten entry were three times more likely than their peers to score “proficient” or “advanced” on the California Language Arts assessment and two times more likely to achieve those scores on the state Math assessment.
- Read to your child on a daily basis. According to the Read Aloud organization, research shows that reading to a child for at least 15 minutes each day is the “single most important thing you can do to prepare your child for reading and learning.” Listening to stories builds a child’s vocabulary, teaches them comprehension skills, exposes them to new information, and creates a bond with books and to the caregiver.
- Love your child. Self-confidence stemming from feeling safe and secure in the world is the foundation upon which everything else rests, including academic learning. Spend time playing with your child, and letting them lead the activity. The NEA advises parents to “kiss and hug your child several times a day.”
- Send your child to preschool. In the California study, not only did children who attended preschool enter kindergarten more ready to learn than their peers, but significant differences remained in third grade on both the Math and Language Arts California State Tests.
Getting Ready for Kindergarten
All children enter kindergarten with different skills, talents, and challenges. Instead of stressing over discreet skills or worrying that their child does not yet know how to read, parents best prepare their children for school success by helping them positively engage with others and fostering interest and curiosity about the world around them.
Albrecht, Pete. What Do We Mean By School Readiness. (2011). Research to Policy. Accessed October 25, 2013.
National Education Association. A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Your Child for School. Accessed October 25, 2013.
Applied Survey Research. School Readiness and Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Study of Santa Clara and San Mateo Students. (2010). Accessed October 25, 2013.Decoded Parenting