As you are getting ready to talk with families about how to be sure children are school ready, we are reminded of an important idea. It is more important that schools are ready for children than it is for children to be school ready. We need to be sure we are not pushing children beyond what is developmentally-appropriate for their age. Consider the idea of asking a large group of children to sit, ‘criss-cross applesauce’ for long periods of time on the carpet. Many times, this only leads to antsy children and trouble. It may be beyond what young children should be asked to do. This goes for “sitting on your bottom” in a chair. As a wise teacher one told me, “They won’t go to college bouncing in their chairs.” If you are having management issues in your classroom, it is so important to stop and ask yourself if you are asking children to do things that are beyond their developmental age.
It is also important to explain this to families, too. I have heard of homes where young children were asked to sit with flashcards at night. This is likely not something we want to do with preschoolers. Rather, we want to encourage a love for learning.
There are developmentally-appropriate ways we can encourage children to become school-ready. For example, board games are a wonderful way for children to learn how to take turns and follow rules. They can see counting in action as pieces are moved along a board. Mathematical one-to-one correspondence becomes meaningful. Reading (if a part of the game) can develop print awareness concepts. These are all helpful and age-appropriate ways to encourage children to become a part of a classroom community.
It is also helpful to explain to families that modeling is a key part of developmentally-appropriate school readiness, too. When an adult reads a newspaper or book, a child sees that adult engaged in literacy. We all know that young children like to mimic. They will then be more willing to pick up reading material when they see it as a part of a family’s home life. Often adults do their personal reading after children go to bed. It is important that we show children we read for information or pleasure, too.
Children can see mathematics at work in homes. If following a recipe, encourage families to talk the recipe aloud. Show children measuring spoons and cups and their importance to creating a favorite dish – like three-layer bars!
School readiness is not going into a preschool classroom reading sight words or using scissors perfectly. Rather, it is being able to get along with others and understanding the concept that literacy and mathematics are useful skills that everyone uses. The skills will come later!