Making sure that all
young children enter school healthy and prepared to succeed, and that all schools are ready
to help every child succeed, are critical to the future success of our
community, state and
nation. While the debates over readiness issues continue, it appears at a
minimum that a comprehensive vision of child well-being would certainly involve
areas of health, nutrition, mental health, education and care. Ready for school
or not, the answers may depend on the things we do and the decisions we make,
both personally and through public policy.
does school readiness mean?
Many educators view childrens learning as an
ongoing process that begins at birth and continues throughout life, not just
when a child enters school. While measuring
school readiness is not easy, there are some key areas, identified by the
National Education Goals Panel, that must be considered when planning for a
childs success in school.
Health and Physical Development
Children will be best prepared for school when
they have access to good preventive health services, proper nutrition, and
participate in activities which adequately develop their large and small
muscles. Even before birth, good pre-natal care promotes a childs health and
development. Low birth weight, for example, is a risk factor for future health
and learning problems. Untreated childhood illnesses, such as ear infections,
can interfere with the normal language development of a young child.
Social and Emotional Development
Children learn positive
self regard through the messages, both spoken and unspoken, given to them daily
by the important adults in their lives. When children feel good about themselves
and their abilities, they have the confidence needed to learn new things. On the
other hand, children who are ignored, criticized, or punished for exploring
their world, become discouraged, passive and unwilling to try new things.
Social skills are an
important aspect of readiness. Research shows that if children are not socially
competent by age 6, they are at risk for social and emotional problems for the
rest of their lives. Children should have opportunities from a very early age to
work and play with other children in order to practice social skills and learn
to get along with one another. Getting along with others and knowing how to
manage ones behavior in a group are critical to good school adjustment.
Approaches Toward Learning
The ways that children approach the task of
learning may be as important as what they know when they come to school. From a
very early age, children need opportunities to safely explore their environments
in ways that create the desire to find out more. Young children are concrete
learners and need opportunities to use all their senses as they explore and
question the world around them. They will not learn best in environments where
they are asked to "be still and quiet." Children who are prepared for school
success are curious about everything and are able to play
and work independently without constant adult intervention. They have the
ability to stay with a task until it is completed and they are proud of their
work. In addition, they are able to listen and follow directions.
Good language development
is one of the best indicators of future school success. Young children learn
language as a result of meaningful experiences. When children experience success
in using language, they quickly develop more advanced language skills.
Children should be
included in conversation from birth. It's not enough to talk in the presence of
children. When a child is engaged in conversation from birth, she will more
likely respond to and use language appropriately at an earlier age.
Cognition and General Knowledge
Children who arrive at
school with a broad knowledge about themselves and their world are better
prepared to learn more complicated concepts. Brain development research
highlights the critical nature of the early years in developing brain
connections to allow a childs brain to develop to its fullest potential.
Family members and other
caregivers play a crucial role in stimulating childrens minds and helping them
learn about the world. Children are born with a strong sense of curiosity and a
desire to learn. A childs learning can be enhanced as they interact frequently
with the people around them, participate in appropriate activities, and play
with toys and materials that build on the childs present knowledge and lead
them to a more advanced level of thinking.
Children learn best when
their interests are encouraged, not through memorization. Memorizing colors, for
example, is difficult for some children. However, when a child learns that his
favorite fire truck is red, the color then has meaning for that child. Young
children learn about spatial concepts through puzzles and block play. As they
pour water or sand from one container to another, they begin to understand
volume. These early experiences then build the foundation for later mathematical
Ready for Kindergarten
means more than ABCs.
A group of kindergarten teachers ranked the skills and behaviors they believe
five-year-olds need to begin school ready to succeed.
92% of teachers ranked healthy, rested and
well-nourished children as the number one quality of
Children should be able to verbally
communicate their needs, wants and thoughts. They need to demonstrate self help
skills, such as dressing themselves.
More than half of the teachers rated the
following as essential to school readiness:
hearing and dental problems are detected and addressed.
knows his name and has a basic awareness of self, family and community.
A child can
follow basic rules and routines.
Most early childhood experts agree that
children continue to have wide variations in their development until about the
age of seven. Children develop intellectual, social, emotional and physical
skills at different times and at their own pace.
Because children develop skills at varying
times, it is difficult to list specific tasks and behaviors to ensure school
So, while letter recognition, knowledge of
animals and sounds, big and little, up and down, are important to know, it is
more important that your child is socially, emotionally, and physically ready to
tackle the pressures of school.
Is your child ready for school? Ask yourself these questions:
Without your help, can your child...
Put on and
take off coat
button, zip and belt pants
toys when asked
Can you child...
Cooperate with other children
Play with other children without biting or hitting
for up to 10 minutes
Does your child...
book upright and turn pages from front to back
listen to a story
and last name
songs and rhymes
retell familiar stories
Has your child...
dental check ups
regular times daily
run, jump, skip, climb, swing, use balls
acknowledges the North Carolina Partnership for Children - Smart Start
for granting us permission to use information from
their website for this page. Visit
Smart Start online for more information!
Visit the other sections of this website
for more information -- and find additional resources on the "learn
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