The ability to identify letters and numbers and have a working vocabulary are often used as benchmarks for assessing kindergarten readiness, yet these don’t tell the whole story. Educators and early development specialists agree that the social-emotional, executive function and behavioral competencies a child brings to his or her first classroom may be as predictive of academic success as other, more quantifiable skills—if not more so.
Focusing solely on letters and numbers can obscure a more comprehensive view of children’s school readiness. The question shouldn’t be, “What should children know when they enter the K-12 system?” But rather, “Are children emotionally, socially and behaviorally ready to thrive in a structured learning environment alongside their peers?”
Among the essential supports to help children prepare for kindergarten and beyond are:
- Positive, dynamic relationships with responsive parents and caregivers
- Safe, stable homes and cohesive, resilient families
- Regular exposure to stimulating, language-rich early learning experiences
- Child cares and schools that prioritize parent involvement in children’s developmental progress
Supporting children’s successful transition into kindergarten is the responsibility of those most involved in their young lives, including families, caregivers, preschool teachers, school district leaders and kindergarten teachers. A new resource is available for early childhood care and education professionals and administrators on steps they can take to help children become successful students. Published by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Buffett Early Childhood Institute and the Nebraska Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, the guide outlines developmentally appropriate expectations and practices to support the transitional needs of children from birth to third grade in Nebraska. It offers ideas for engaging families, partnering with schools, fostering a responsive learning environment and tips and activities to facilitate children’s learning. It also provides information on working with diverse children and families, including those with disabilities.