By Sharon Moyer, community engagement administrator, Partnership for Children of Cumberland County
"Look out Kindergarten, Here I Come" by Nancy Carlson is the last in a series of books children receive from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. It intends to give children an extra boost of confidence before they attend kindergarten. We all know that change is hard. It can be challenging for children to transition from their current environment to a kindergarten classroom.
This transitional time can also be stressful for other family members, but it helps to learn how to prepare a child for kindergarten. You may have heard the term "kindergarten readiness" in the past and wondered what it is. I asked Candace Scott, vice president of programs at the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, seven questions about kindergarten readiness.
What is kindergarten readiness? Kindergarten readiness refers to the five developmental areas that contribute to a child's ability to adapt to the kindergarten classroom. The five developmental areas that support school readiness are: • Health & Physical Well-Being: Motor development, physical activity, good nutrition and self-care. • Social and Emotional Development: Ability to build relationships, sense of self and others and learning about feelings. • Approaches to Play & Learning: Curiosity, risk-taking and problem-solving. • Language Development: Emerging literacy skills: reading, writing and communicating. • Cognitive Development: Knowledge derived from experiences, creative expression, science/math exploration, thinking and reasoning. These five areas were developed based on three components that are the best predictors of positive outcomes for kindergarten children. 1. Child-to-school and family-to-school connections. These connections introduce children to the kindergarten classroom, the school environment, the new routines and their new teacher. These connections increase child and family comfort level with the transition to a new school. 2. School-to-school connection. Encourage a relationship between your child's preschool and kindergarten teachers. Have preschool staff identify goals and share information about the child's progress. This helps kindergarten teachers become familiar with individual children. 3. Community-to-school connection. There are many community resources available to support families and schools. Utilizing resources within the community to support continuity of care helps during the transition process.
What are the key factors in preparing a child for kindergarten? Is it just ensuring they know their ABCs and 123s? Stability and consistency between settings is a vital factor for early childhood success. This is one of the key areas where transition experiences can make a difference; by helping to bridge the gap between preschool and kindergarten. Successful transitions can help to promote consistency between school and home. The teachers' support and consistency in and out of the classroom can predict the children's social/emotional and academic success.
What age should kindergarten readiness start? School readiness starts prenatally. Children need to be cared for and nurtured in a way that promotes an ability to thrive and ensures their health and safety. This in turn encompasses the skills that your child needs at each developmental stage. Children born at a healthy birth weight and who form a positive attachment are far more likely to achieve positive outcomes associated with school completion.
As a parent, how should I prepare my child? Creating connections to facilitate a successful transition to kindergarten requires focused efforts. Transition work is most effective when strong relationships and valuable partnerships between children, families, school and early childhood programs are established before kindergarten starts. In North Carolina, we are very fortunate to have the guidance of Early Learning Standards from North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development, which covers infants through older preschoolers. Early childhood teachers in North Carolina receive training and support in using the Early Learning Standards. As a parent, ask your child's teacher about the foundations’ tool and how it is used in the classroom to support your child's readiness for school. Information about the foundations tool and other school readiness resources can be found on our website at ccpfc.org/KindergartenReadiness. Children's books about kindergarten: • “A Place Called Kindergarten,” by Jessica Harper • “Countdown to Kindergarten,” by Alison McGhee • “First Day Jitters,” by Julie Danneberg • “I am Too Absolutely Small for School,” by Lauren Child • “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” by Nancy Carlson • “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come/Preparate, kindergarten! Alla voy!” by Nancy Carlson • “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff • “Off to Kindergarten” by Tony Johnston • “Que Nervios! El Primer Dia de Escuela” by Julie Danneberg • “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn • “Un Beso en Mi Mano” by Audrey Penn • “Welcome to Kindergarten” by Anne Rockwell
Is there a program in which I can enroll my child? If so, is there a cost? You can contact the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Child Care Resource & Referral Agency, Division of Child Development & Early Education or local education agency. In North Carolina, the most widely available school readiness program is NC Pre-K. NC Pre-K is a high-quality pre-kindergarten program designed to provide 4-year-old children with a valuable educational experience, preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond. NC Pre-K is state-funded and available to eligible children at no cost to families.
If I am not a parent, what can I do to support children and families in my community? Community links help ensure continuity for children and help provide cohesion to the services offered to children during the preschool and kindergarten years. Here are some ways to foster community-school connections: • Volunteer with community agencies that work with families (ex., Housing Authority, and Social Service Agencies, Guardian ad Litem, Find A Friend, Big Brother & Big Sister, 4-H Club, YMCA, School Mentoring Programs, Great Oaks, From Boys to Men, libraries, parks and recreation, etc.). These agencies are ready and willing to provide their volunteers with training in their area of expertise. • Be an advocate for early childhood by supporting government leaders who support early childhood issues and legislation that strengthens our early childhood education system. • Help family and friends when they have trouble getting their children to preschool due to illness or transportation issues. • Lastly, anytime you can read to a child, do it.
What else would you like parents, grandparents and others to know? A smooth transition creates conditions for a successful adjustment. We have many transitions in our own lives, including going to college, getting married, beginning a new job or career, moving to a new town or experiencing an empty nest … it all takes adjustment and transition. Why would we think transitioning our children would not be an adjustment? The three significant contributions to setting up successful adjustment during transitions are: • Access to information (The more you know, the more at ease you feel). • Supportive relationships (Social connections are always important). • Alignment between environments (The more your new environment mimics the old, the easier your transition will be). "It takes a village to prepare children to be happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in life," says Scott. "Some things can be done on all different levels by all different kinds of people that contribute to school readiness. Children who complete school become strong supporters and contributors to their community, benefiting the community." The Partnership for Children of Cumberland County is a private/public, nonprofit serving families with children birth to 5 years old. Since 1993, we have provided resources, support and programs that empower families, advance the well-being of children and strengthen the early care and education system in our community. For more information about our programs, including Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, visit our website at ccpfc.org.