How do we know when children are ready for kindergarten? It’s difficult to define. The ability to identify letters and numbers and have a working vocabulary are often used as benchmarks for assessing school 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?” Rather, we ought to ask, “Are children emotionally, socially and behaviorally ready to thrive alongside their peers in a structured learning environment?”
Among the essential supports to help children at risk develop skills that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond are:
- Positive, dynamic relationships with responsive parents and caregivers
- Safe, stable home environments and cohesive, resilient family structures
- Regular exposures to stimulating, language-rich early learning experiences
- Child cares and schools that prioritize parent involvement in children’s developmental progress
For more information, read our early childhood brief, “How do we know when Nebraska’s children are kindergarten-ready?”