Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Parents and Parent Educators Offer Tips (page 3)
When Rosario Padilla’s oldest daughter, now 12, started school in Manteca, “it was hard for her to adjust. She cried a lot and didn’t want to do the work,” she recalls. But Padilla thinks her youngest child will have an easier transition to school—she’s learning English from older siblings and has weekly visits from Ana Suche, a parent educator with the school readiness program, El Concilio.
Suche “taught me to sing to my daughter, to read to her, to explain to her what I’m doing as I’m doing it and talk to her about it,” says Padilla. Suche brings new books and toys—most recently a soft squishy ball and another with rubber bumps.
Getting ready for kindergarten isn’t just about learning letters, numbers, and shapes, say those who work with young children. “If a child can’t separate from mom without being upset, or tell an adult when they need to go to the bathroom, they can’t learn,” says Brandi Harrold, of the Tracy Unified School District’s School Readiness program. Parents and parent educators offer tips for helping children get ready for school.
Read with your child
“Read to your child, that’s the most important thing,” says Terry Eichel, a teacher at Washington Elementary in Alameda. The language in books is different from how we speak, she says—and if kids aren’t familiar with books, they can’t predict what’s going to come next. “It takes many students a long time to catch up,” she adds.
Reading with your child should be interactive, says Patty Casetta, mother of a four-year-old and a second grade teacher in Berkeley. She asks her daughter lots of questions about what’s going to happen, what the characters are doing and seeing, thinking and feeling. They also talk about how books are similar or different and how the events in books relate to their own lives. Casetta suggests parents check out their local library, but adds that children can also “start to recognize (words in neighborhood) signs. Trips to the store (can help children) learn new words and see new things.”
Teach letters and numbers, colors and shapes
“We make the letters of (my daughter’s) name out of Play Doh and we do finger painting,” says Casetta. She also suggests filling a box with salt or sugar and having children trace letters in the box.
“If you’re putting groceries away, let your child help,” adds Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, executive director of the Oakland-based BAHIA, which runs a bilingual preschool. “Say, ‘Give me the small red can.’’”
“In the American system of education we’re teaching children to be independent learners at a very young age,” says Leyva-Cutler. “A child needs to be able to separate from their parent, express their needs, and work for 20 minutes or more on a project with little supervision.”
Valerie Borges, mother of four in Tracy, says her daughter gets dressed, brushes her teeth, and eats breakfast with very little help. She goes to preschool so she can “get used to being away from home,” she says. Parents can encourage children to get their own snacks, put on shoes and jackets, work alone, brush their teeth, and clean up.
Make school familiar
“It’s not so much teaching them specific skills,” says Eichel, “but that different places have different rules.” Susan Sollie, mother of three, says Sunday school taught her son “to sit and listen to a story, to take turns, to raise his hand.”
“Talk to (your child) about what is going on and give them as much information as you can,” says Harrold. Borges says her daughter’s preschool “took a field trip to kindergarten. They showed them classrooms, let them play on the playground, and introduced the children to the teachers.”
And parents feel more secure when they also meet the teachers and are familiar with the school, says Lani Schiff-Ross, who manages readiness programs for San Joaquin County’s First Five Commission. “When the parents feel more secure it’s better for the child,” she adds.
Find out about school readiness programs
Sollie says a summer “kindergarten bridge” program helped her son learn what would be expected in school. “One day they drew circles, they cut out circles, they glued circles,” she recalls.
“We take a comprehensive approach,” said Schiff-Ross—“everything from helping parents address physical problems, like a child needing glasses, to not staying up late watching television and eating cupcakes so the child is ready for school in the morning.”
At El Concilio, “we try to help parents become more observant,” says director Nicole Porter, “to notice their child’s strengths and weaknesses, what they can do and what they can’t. When a parent knows her child, she can tell a teacher, ‘She does know her letters and numbers, she’s just being shy.’”
School Readiness Skills
While children develop at different rates and not all children learn each skill before kindergarten, child development experts recommend that children be able to:
- Recognize their first name and the letters in their name
- Look at books, turning pages, naming objects
- Say how old they are
- Recognize numbers through five, understand that numbers mean amount, count to 10
- Hold crayons like a pencil and cut with scissors
- Know names of many colors, basic shapes, and body parts
- Draw and color beyond scribbling
- Follow simple directions
- Dress themselves by zipping, buttoning, and snapping
- Follow the leader by walking, running, hopping, jumping, and marching
- Be able to be away from their parents without being too upset
Resources on getting ready for school
- California First 5 offers tip sheets on early learning and other topics, in 10 languages at www.ccfc.ca.gov
- Zero to Three offers resources on child development, early learning, play, and other topics at www.zerotothree.org/site/PageServer?pagename=par_parents
- Great Schools offers tips and resources. Online at www.greatschools.net/content/allArticles.page (scroll down to My Kindergartener). Some articles in Spanish at www.greatschools.net/content/allArticles.page (scroll down to “Articles in Spanish”)
- Terrific Transitions, from the SERVE Regional Education Laboratory, offers information and resources online at www.serve.org/TT
- Also, contact your local family resource center or school district for additional resources.
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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