First 5: Is your child ready? School readiness

By From page B3 | August 11, 2014

Kathleen Guerrero.

Children that enter school “ready” are better prepared to learn. Ready children typically score higher on third grade reading tests, a predictor of high school graduation.

In years past, “ready” was defined by age. If children were 5 before Dec. 2, they were ready for school. My children were October babies, eligible for school when they were 4. I sent them both.

My daughter was very bright, knew and followed the rules and liked to play with other children. She couldn’t wait to go to school. On the first day she turned, hand on hip, and said “Mom!” with disgust. She was a little too big to have her mom walk her to the classroom.

My son was a completely different story. He was reading at 4, knew the rules (didn’t always follow them) and didn’t care much for other children. Although I was concerned about his social issues, he was smart and definitely ready academically. On the way toschool he said, “I know my ABC’s. I know my 1, 2, 3’s. Why do I have to go?”

Last year, 80 percent of children in El Dorado County entered school ready to learn as measured by the Kindergarten Student Entrance Profile (KESP), developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The KSEP asks kindergarten teachers if children:

1. Are enthusiastic and curious about school
2. Seek adult help when appropriate
3. Engage in cooperative play activities with peers
4. Exhibit impulse control and self-regulation
5. Maintain attention to tasks (attention focus, distractibility)
6. Persist with tasks after experiencing difficulty (task persistence, coping with challenges)
7. Recognize own written name
8. Demonstrate expressive verbal abilities
9. Understand that numbers represent quantity
10. Write own name
11. Recognize colors
12. Recognize shapes

If I had this list when my kids were 4, I would have explored other options such as preschool and transitional kindergarten. Research shows that children that attend at least one year of preschool are better prepared for school than their peers who did not attend. Many school districts offer transitional kindergarten, a two-year program that supports children learning in a developmentally appropriate environment.

As your child’s first teacher, you know if your child is ready. Ask questions, visit the school, meet the teachers and trust your instincts. There isn’t any magic in the age. The magic is in the love of learning.

Kathleen Guerrero

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