- Rebecca Cothern
I like to take hot topics that are debated and show the research behind them. Today’s topic is kindergarten readiness. Many teachers and parents question; is kindergarten readiness needed? What should it look like? And why is there so much talk about it? Some may believe that kindergarten readiness is part of the push-down curriculum. First grade is doing second grade work, kindergarten is doing first grade work, and preschool now must do kindergarten work. While today’s post is not about whether or not there is a push-down curriculum, I do want to poise another train of thought: guidelines that start at birth and push up to kindergarten.
Think about life 20 to 30 years ago before smart phones and video games. Now think about life 50 years ago before a lot of the T.V. programing and computers. Parents read to their children, sang songs, did finger-plays, got on the floor and rolled around. In short, it was a very different childhood for these children. Today the world is full of electronics (cell phones, I-pads, head-phones, computers, laptops, television, hand-held devices, blue-tooth, and so much more); and babies are exposed to and use this technology from the moment they are born. Moms are no longer playing and interacting with their babies; rather they are putting the baby in front of a screen or holding an electronic toy while they themselves are trapped behind their own screen. This lack of interaction and real-life experiences is handicapping our children. If you don’t believe me just look at the research. Recent data from the Northwest Evaluation Association indicates that virtually the entire gap in language achievement and almost 70 percent of the gap in math achievement as seen on ACT and SAT scores are created before the beginning of second grade and most likely between birth and kindergarten.
Think about that most of the achievement gap we see in schools happens between birth and kindergarten. That means as teachers we start with an uphill battle. The majority of my years teaching have been in an at-risk kindergarten where students came into school on a 2 year old level. One child in particular came in with no language in either English or Spanish. When he would need something he pointed and grunted. When forced to use words it was single words. He was tested for learning disabilities with no luck. But when I approached his mother about this child she told me that he never talks at home either, he just likes to sit in front of the T.V. I’m not blaming this sweet mother, she worked with me and her child and by the end of the year this child (who was developmentally at 18 months) was reading on grade level.
This research is exactly why kindergarten readiness is so important. If we can catch students up early the gaps that were once there no longer present a problem, but if we don’t the gap just gets larger and larger until there is a huge chasm showing kids 3 and 4 grades behind their peers. However, it is important as we look at kindergarten readiness that it is approached in the right way. We don’t want kids sitting in desks or being lectured by a teacher. Children do not learn this way. Once again we look at what the research; research shows that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. But it is not enough to just give some toys to a child. Play is enhanced and beneficial when there is interaction with other children and adults.
To help parents and early childhood educators with kindergarten readiness I have prepared this kindergarten readiness packet. In the packet there is a simple assessment performed one-on-one with a non-threatening adult. This gives the adult an idea of what areas the child excels in and what areas the child needs more play and learning in. Then use the many activities within each area to play and practice with your child. Games such as, “Talk A Lot”, “Simon Says”, and “Ripple Reply” will build your child’s abilities through simple play and real life experiences. Games and activities cover the areas of comprehension, phonics and name, phonemic awareness, language, and math. There are nearly 30 different activities for children to play all summer long so your child will be ready and wanting to go to kindergarten.