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Many of our students aren’t coming to school ready to learn

Michael Strickland

Preschool children are confident in spirit, abundant in energy, and eager to learn. For them, everything is still possible. Many people wait until back-to-school season to begin preparing young children for the next phase. For those just beginning school, now is a good time to take advantage of precious months that can be used to bolster kindergarten readiness. My experiences raising three daughters combined with my decades in classrooms have created a joy in discussing this unique phase of child development.

According to the Idaho Commission for Libraries, too many families are not accessing books and other learning opportunities. They are behind from the start. Idaho State Department of Education statistics indicate that almost 63% of low-income children entered kindergarten with less than a proficient level of literacy readiness.

Kindergarten readiness encompasses many areas of learning. The students need the ability to follow instructions and to develop impulse control. They need to learn how to take turns and cooperate with classmates. It also includes the very basics of reading, such as learning letters and understanding how they form words. Preschool children begin to pick up on this when their parents or caregivers read to them. Indeed, this simple activity creates the foundation for early childhood literacy and a lifetime of learning.

Our kids go through a big change when they finally start kindergarten. For most, this is the first time that they will be learning in a structured school environment. While for other kids, it could mean an easy transition from preschool to a large room with many kids. Children respond differently to this experience. Some are very excited and eager to start. Others may get nervous and find it tough to adapt. Kids usually have different reactions as soon as they get into the classroom.

In terms of readiness and preparation, kids may also be different. Some have the necessary skills with basic numbers and the 26 letter alphabet. Others may have no clue as to what these are. This is where the parents come in. In order to ensure that their kids are well-prepared for kindergarten, it is their responsibility to make this transition easier. These nine hacks will help you get your kids ready for kindergarten.

Equip them with kindergarten skills: You can get your child ready for kindergarten by equipping them with the skills that they need. Practice with them some of the activities that they will likely perform in class. This could be using a pencil or forming letters.

Set clear morning and bedtime routines: Help your child adjust to the new routines. This could be waking up on time or going to bed early.

Start phasing out unhelpful activities: With kindergarten, the school officially begins for the child. At this point, it is important to phase out unhelpful activities from their daily routines. You may want to cut back on napping time and unnecessary playful activities.

Teach them to follow directions: Kids are going to be following lots of directions when they start school. You can help them prepare for this by practicing at home with them. You can solve puzzles or play games together.

Get them mentally and physically prepared for the first day: The first day of school can be emotionally and physically draining. They can easily become anxious on the first day. You can help them prepare by making them feel at ease.

Teach them how to seek help: Kids usually need help from time to time. You should teach your kid how to seek and get help. This could be finding the bathroom or taking their snacks/lunch.

Read with them: Reading with your kid helps lay the foundation for them to learn in school. The child will be getting ready to learn math, writing, and reading. You can introduce them to these concepts by reading with them.

Introduce them to new friends: Kids also get nervous around new faces. With kindergarten, it could be worse. The thought of a new environment and unfamiliar faces can be debilitating. You should prepare your kid to be comfortable around strangers. This is a trait that needs to be instilled into the kid several months before kindergarten. Ensure that the kid is comfortable around other kids of the same age.

Help them remember their strengths: As small as they are, kids may be worried about not being good enough. Explain to them that kindergarten is all about learning and improving. Help them remember their past successes and achievements. This could be catching balls or learning how to tie a shoe.

Research shows that children who start behind will stay behind and in many cases, continue to lose ground. This makes it more likely they will need costly extra instruction, stop progressing, or even drop out of school. Please note the list in this column is by no means exhaustive. It is merely a starting point and I will be writing more on the topic. Nonetheless, there is not a single issue that has a greater impact on our system than the fact that many of our students aren’t coming ready to learn. We want to provide our children with the best start possible.

Book reviews, analysis and teaching tips: https://youngpeoplespavilion.com

Read about children’s literature around the net: http://bit.ly/youngpeoplespavilion

Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland

Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University and studies at Idaho State University.

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