Getting ready for success – preparing for kindergarten
By Kathy Scott
Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socio economic status, everyone experiences transitions from one stage of life to another. Entering kindergarten is perhaps one of the most critical, however.
No matter how secure a child is, or how prepared a parent to relinquish total control over the little prince or princess, kindergarten is a major leap into a new world of expectations. For some who have had a positive experience with pre-school, the transition is relatively smooth, but for children and parents who were not blessed with such pre-school opportunities or with at-home preparedness, the transition can be so dramatic that it literally takes months to adjust, months that could be much better used.
In a perfect world, the entry into kindergarten would be fairly equal for all. But let’s be real: it never will be when some five year olds are already speaking English or at least have a mastery of their home language, know letters, colors, shapes, how to write their names, and have interacted with peers and adults other than family.
On the other hand, other five year olds have very little academic skills in any language, have had few opportunities to interact with others outside of relatives, and most unfortunately, have not developed self-control or self-learning because they have not been expected to have done so.
But it is not too late to take steps to narrow the gulf. And thankfully, doing so takes very few resources other than some dedicated time and effort. One of the very best ways to start is simply to talk with the child, not just at him or her, and to start sharing very basic skills in reading and math in the home language.
For example, a trip to the grocery store is an opportunity for learning. When getting a gallon or two of milk, count aloud how many gallon jugs are on the shelf. Take what you want to purchase, then count again. Do something similar with three or four other purchases, and within a few weeks, the child will count with you. Do the same with colors, calling out the main color on a cereal box. Point out letters on packages. Doing this adds a few minutes to the shopping trip, but the foundation it provides is priceless.
Have the child spend three 10-minute periods a day focusing on independent learning. Do this by handing the child a phone or tablet to watch one of the hundreds of videos available for free that review numbers, colors, shapes, animals, body parts, or any other basic knowledge every child should have mastered before entering kindergarten. Do this with the offering in English. Just the exposure to English is essential to entering an English-dominated world.
Open the door of expectations by taking the child to the Family Resource Center. Nogales Unified School District provides facilities next to Mitchell Elementary School and the program itself has many offerings. There are classes and learning opportunities, including ones specifically designed to prepare a child for kindergarten free throughout the summer. In addition to academic-type exposure, the child learns to work with others, to be separated from mom for short periods of time, and to listen and focus. Call 397-7334 for times of offerings. Parents need to register their incoming kinder students with Nogales Unified School District on Plum Street as soon as possible if they have not already done so, and they will receive a schedule for the Family Resource Center and a tip-sheet in English and Spanish on how to help the child be ready.
Frequent trips to the library are another good way to introduce a new setting, interact with others, and to have practice in sitting, listening, and expected behavior in a public setting. Having organized play dates with peers is also very helpful even if those times are nothing more than learning to share toys and adult attention.
The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is more true now than ever, but when it comes to preparing a child to transition into kindergarten, it really just takes one adult to take advantage of opportunities that are available to all. If you know a parent who could use the guidance or a child entering kindergarten who needs a mentor in order to be prepared, step up. The dividends reaped could very well make all other transitions in that child’s life much easier.