Ready for the first day of school?

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, April 24, 2008

By Staff
Many of us grew up in an era when preparing for that original first day of school was a simple process. It may have meant shopping for clothes and that “must have” lunchbox.
That day has passed. In today’s competitive and ever-changing world, it is vital that we see a child’s “school readiness” as an investment. We must ensure that our children acquire the skills necessary to succeed in school, but we cannot wait until the first day of kindergarten to begin assessing their abilities and the tools they will need to excel.
The Foundations of Early Learning Standards for North Carolina Preschoolers looks at five areas that are important to “school readiness” and the ideal characteristics of children entering school for the first time. All of which are directly impacted by the quality of their child care prior to enrolling in school at age 5.
Each area is interlinked with at least one other; however, no one specific area properly represents the overall child. Development will vary extensively at this age. Cultural experiences and various competency levels will have an impact as well.
Health and physical development
By the beginning of school, any vision or hearing difficulties would hopefully have been identified and in the process of being addressed. If a child is coming to school from a quality provider, it is more likely that enough information has been gathered to know whether a child may be a candidate for special services to best meet their needs. When this occurs, we can best serve every child from the beginning. Without this prior assessment, we will be delayed in offering that child proper services that will allow them to thrive.
Social and emotional development
This is one dimension that may excel in a high-quality child-care setting. Children beginning school ideally will show emotion well and exhibit social skills required to respond and interact with their peers and with adults. Children are beginning to identify and express their own feelings on an age-appropriate level. This may include signs of learning anger management, understanding others and early comprehension of personal feelings. A quality child care setting is a model atmosphere to feel out these avenues and learn to be confident in their abilities and capabilities. Greatly varying home situations will also impact a child’s ability to grow and thrive in new situations. This is another reason quality child care in the years before kindergarten is so important. With proper supervision, many children will have acquired techniques and strengths, which allow them to work past their drawbacks.
Approaches toward learning
One of the many things children will absorb is someone else’s excitement for learning. Whether it is at home or with a provider, children will emulate the desire for knowledge shown to them by the adults in their world. This will escalate into a confidence in their own ability to learn as well as a deep and productive curiosity.
Language development and communication
These skills are key in preparing children for school. At this point, children are using language skills to interact socially and describe thoughts, feelings and wants. There is an ever-increasing number of North Carolina children beginning school who come from households that speak a language other than English as a primary language. The establishment of a large vocabulary early on will link directly to all other areas of learning for all children.
Cognitive skills
A child’s cognitive or analytical skills come into play with all areas of growth and learning. Early attention to all five areas will enable parents and child care providers to key into any problems a child may have developed. Once identified, children with special needs may begin the prekindergarten exceptional children’s program between the ages of 3 and 5.
Children are our work force of tomorrow. Today, 80 percent of jobs are skilled positions, with jobs requiring postsecondary education to be the fastest-growing segment of the job market. Children need to begin school ready to learn the minute they enter a school’s doors. Parents need to ensure that their children have developed all the aforementioned skills. Preparing your child for success in school is also preparing them for success in life.