An anxiety-provoking and frustratingly vague concept, what does the phrase “kindergarten readiness” actually mean? Officially, according to the National Educational Goals Panel, it means that kids should enter school “ready to learn”. However, interviews of parents and teachers across communities in the U.S. reveal that kindergarten readiness is not neatly defined (Hatcher, Nuner, & Paulsel, 2012). For both preschool teachers and parents in the study, their definitions of kindergarten readiness included academic, school, and social emotional skills.
Academic skills: Children can write their name and can recognize letters and their sounds.
School related skills: Children engage during group activities by participating and listening to their teacher and classmates. They are familiar with what is expected of them during daily routines like washing hands before snack time.
Social emotional skills: Children can express themselves and work out problems with their classmates.
According to the preschool teachers, the social emotional aspect of readiness is especially important and is often undervalued by parents. Parents, in contrast, were more likely in their interviews to mention specific academic skills rather than social skills.
By comparing parents and teachers’ responses across regions and schools, the researchers concluded that the definition of kindergarten readiness may depend on your community, teachers, and your own beliefs. What does this mean for you?
Don’t place too much weight on lists of specific skills your child needs to be “ready”. Your school may have different benchmarks.
The key is communication. Talk to your child’s preschool teachers about your child’s development. Consider their comfort level with skills mentioned above and express your concerns to their teachers. Kindergarten teachers’ expectations vary and won’t necessarily align with your preschool teachers views of readiness. If you have the opportunity to talk to your child’s kindergarten teacher, it may be worth your while to find out more about what being “ready” means to them.
If you’re feeling anxious about kindergarten readiness, remember that you and your child’s teachers are the experts when it comes to your child’s development.
Hatcher, B., Nuner, J., & Paulsel, J. (2012). Kindergarten readiness and preschools: Teachers’ and parents’ beliefs within and across programs. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 14(2).