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Encouraging readiness in children

All parents want their children to succeed in school, to enjoy learning and playing with others, to explore new opportunities, and to be able to take advantage of the many learning experiences offered.

All parents want their children to succeed in school, to enjoy learning and playing with others, to explore new opportunities, and to be able to take advantage of the many learning experiences offered.

School readiness is the term often used to describe a child’s ability to meet the tasks of the school setting and ability to take advantage of the learning environment and experiences provided.

Children who start school ready to learn are more likely to continue to thrive. Many studies have shown that children who do well in kindergarten, continue to succeed in the early grades and are more likely to complete high school. They also have better long-term outcomes in the areas of health and career success.

There are five developmental areas for children that, in combination, contribute to readiness for school. In many communities across Canada, school readiness is measured through a teacher-completed checklist called the Early Development Instrument. Developed by the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, it provides a measure of school readiness the five developmental areas: Physical Health and Well-being, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language and Cognitive Development and Communication Skills and General Knowledge.

In this column, let’s look at the developmental domain or area of Language and Cognitive Development and how a parent can encourage readiness in this area.

This area of readiness includes: interest in books and numbers. Parents should read daily to and with their child, discussing, asking and answering questions, talking about pictures. Books should be available in the home, where children can get them out as they wish, without always having to ask. Children can be asked to tell or “read” a story to a parent or other child. Get a library for the child — they are free! Try to build up a good selection of books in your home. Garage sales are a good source for this. Let your children see you reading and writing.

Basic literacy skills, such as turning the pages of a book, knowing that able to identify at least 10 letters of the alphabet, able to attach sounds to some letters, an awareness of rhyming words, able to print own name, able to participate in a group reading activity, by listening, asking questions, and answering questions.

Parents can tell nursery rhymes and rhyming songs and poems. Let the child handle the books, teaching them what is the front, back, how you know when to turn the page, pointing to the words as you read aloud. Sing the alphabet song, read alphabet picture books, and write your child’s name on many items around the house Point out the letters of the child’s name whenever you see it on signs, in stores, etc. Provide writing and drawing materials such as pencils, markers, paint and paint brushes. Let your child dictate a letter, grocery list, or story to you-you can write down most of it and encourage your child to sign his or her name, or write some of the words. (You can spell them for the child). Have fun making home-made books, with photos and drawings, and your child providing the words they want included on each page.

Basic numeracy Skills: these number and mathematical skills include the ability to count, recognize numbers, understand simple concepts of time and size, recognize basic geometric shapes such as circle, square, and triangle, and the ability to sort or classify. Parents can encourage development in this area by playing games involving numbers, such as card games, counting items at every opportunity, baking together and talking about numbers in recipes, and keeping height and weight growth charts. Most board games require a dice and you can count every move of the game piece. Sorting and classifying (by colour, size, shape) can be encouraged by simple activities; ask your child to find all the blue socks, or get out all the big cups, or sort out blocks by size, shape or colour.

Interactive activities with your child are fun and will help your child enjoy and benefit from school.

Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Laurie Lafortune, Understanding the Early Years co-ordinator with Family Services of Central Alberta. (X) can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or