Getting everyone ready for kindergarten means adults as well as children

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“We can clearly answer the question, ‘Is everybody ready for kindergarten’ when we understand that ‘everybody’ does not apply to just children.”  That’s one of many wise insights in a new, brief book making a big, important point:  We need to be equally concerned about helping students be ready for kindergarten, and helping kindergartens (and schools) be ready for students and their families.     

In Is Everybody Ready for Kindergarten?,  Angéle Sancho Passe brings 30 years of teaching (including at the University of Minnesota) and writing together to provide specific, practical and research-based advice for families, educators and legislators. This is one of the wisest, most useful books I’ve read in several years.

Parents will find many suggestions for helping their children “get ready” for kindergarten.  This includes thirteen things that families can do like reading together, experiencing high quality group settings, making sure youngsters are checked by a doctor, visiting schools and making a thoughtful choice among them, talking positively about kindergarten and developing a plan to be involved in the school.

Passe also stresses what she calls the importance of the “ready school” – institutions that have taken steps to be well prepared for youngsters.  Again, she includes a list of items that “ready elementary schools” do, including

  • meet with early childhood providers to learn from each other,
  • train staff about how to work with families of various backgrounds,
  • alter practices and programs that do not benefit children, and
  • “take responsibility for results.”

She offers an example of some “non-ready” kindergarten teachers who were critical of parents who sent their students to kindergarten wearing lovely dresses.  There was a misunderstanding with families who dressed up their children to show kindergarten was very important, and teachers who wanted youngsters to wear more informal clothing since they would be on the floor, and could get dirty.  Passe recommends discussions between educators and families before youngsters enter school, so that expectations are clear.

Passe agrees with University of Minnesota professors Arthur Reynolds and Judy Temple. These researchers have documented that gains are strongest, and longest lasting, when students attend high quality early childhood programs and attend elementary schools that have changed the way they work with students, based on emerging research.

Over the last decade, there’s been a big push to help more students be “ready for Kindergarten.”  Various studies have documented that high quality early childhood programs can have long run benefits such as increased high school graduation rates and less involvement with the criminal justice system.   This research shows major long-term benefits from intensive, 3-5 day per week programs, especially for youngsters from low income, limited English speaking families, and students who have some form of disability.  Many families also have enjoyed once a week programs such as the widespread, popular, Early Childhood/Family Education offered in many communities.   

Passe describes what strong early childhood and elementary schools will do.    She packs a lot of wise, practical, balanced information into a book that is only 142 pages long.