Ready for school, revisited

I participated recently in a workshop at the Association of Alaska School Boards conference. The topic was school readiness. I asked the school board members how they would define “ready for kindergarten.” People’s response to this question typically includes skills such as knowing the names and sounds of letters; knowing numbers, shapes, and colors; being able to count; demonstrating physical motor skills; and using language and being able to follow directions.

These school board members knew their stuff! They included all these and added several more. They said knowing about books and print is important. And nearly every group said children need to be ready emotionally and socially for the challenges of kindergarten. In fact, teamwork and getting along with others are increasingly valued in the workplace, and employers know how critical it is for adults to have begun developing these social/emotional skills at a very young age.

Kindergarten teacher Francie Alexander, writing for Scholastic Parents, added one more school readiness skill: remembering. She says developing memory skills is important for learning in school and in life.

The holiday season is a perfect time for parents, grandparents, teachers – everyone who interacts with young children – to help develop these skills in fun, interactive ways.

Let your child help count the number of forks needed to set the table. Talk about shapes and colors while baking cookies or decorating cupcakes. Teach children holiday stories and songs you remember from your own childhood.

Kids love family stories – both factual and fanciful. Show them photos of your childhood, their grandparents, and great-grandparents, and share your memories. Create a holiday book with a child as she draws pictures and dictates the text. Then let her “read” the book to you.

You will be helping develop school readiness skills and having fun, too.

Happy holidays!