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What does ‘readiness’ really mean?

— If “kindergarten-ready” is the new buzzword in discussions about improving education, what makes a child ready for kindergarten?

According to Dry Hollow kindergarten teacher Kim Granville, it’s about social and academic skills.

“Can they tell you their name? Can they tell you how old they are? Are they OK being without mom and dad and it’s not a shock to be here surrounded by other students?” she asked.

She said teachers hope students come in being able to do things like count to 10, recognize at least 10 lowercase and 10 uppercase letters, name basic shapes and colors, use scissors and recognize simple patterns.

“If they can identify the letters in their name when they come in, they will be way ahead,” she said. “They will also be able to recognize their name on their cubby and on their folder to take home and be able to read the nametag on their desk.”

That type of basic knowledge allows students to hit the ground running when it comes to learning to read, write and do math. But Granville said it is just as hard for students to learn when they don’t come in with the right social skills.

She sees students come in who aren’t used to holding a basic conversation, like responding to their teacher when she asks how they are doing or asking a fellow student what their name is. She also sees students who will sit silently instead of asking for help when they are not sure what to do, and students who can’t take turns or follow a simple one-step direction like “Put your coat away in your cubby.”

There is a big push in education to get kids into preschool, but Granville said she doesn’t see it as a requirement to succeed. Some of the children she sees came to kindergarten ready to learn because of preschool, but in other cases the parents did just as good of a job as preschool would have done in preparing them for school.

What can parents do to help their child succeed in kindergarten and beyond?

“Read, read, read,” Granville said. “And when you’re reading ask questions and make believe with them: ‘What would have happened if the dog didn’t find his bone?’ Encourage that oral vocabulary and that habit of wondering.”

She said parents can make a concerted effort to draw parallels between books and real life, like reading a book about the number five and then having the child help count out five goldfish crackers for a snack. They can also greatly help their children just by answering their questions and pointing out things in the world around them.

“If kids spend less time in front of a screen and more time talking with people and exploring the world around them, that’s what they need,” she said.

At the National PTA’s website, at pta.org, parents can find various resources, including the “Parents’ Guide to Student Success” for each grade (in English and Spanish), which can be found by clicking on the “For parents” button at the top of the screen and then selecting the “Guides to Student Success” option on the left side of the screen.

The kindergarten guide tells parents about skills they can help their students get a head start on learning and gives suggestions for helping them learn, like singing silly word songs and asking who has more of a certain item.

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