School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed in school, cognitively, socially and emotionally. A child can be considered as school ready when he or she can meet the formal demands of school, more specifically, when he or she can cope with the school environment physically, perceptually, socially and emotionally as well as academically, without undue stress.
When discussing school readiness our point of departure should always be that preschools and preschool teachers are responsible for only a part of our children’s education. As parents we are our children’s primary educators and it is our duty and privilege to make sure that our children are suitably equipped so that they may benefit from the subject instruction offered to them at school.
The important role that parents play in their children’s school achievement has been confirmed by many studies. One study, published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, reported that the effort put forth by parents (reading stories aloud, meeting with teachers) has a bigger impact on their children’s educational achievement than the effort expended by either teachers or the students themselves.
Research has also shown that parents don’t need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge. They don’t need to chauffeur their offspring to enrichment classes. What they need to do with their children is much simpler:
Talking to children develops their language skills
Language ability has been found to be an important predictor of reading ability. It is therefore of the utmost importance that parents should do everything possible to ascertain that their child be given optimum opportunities for language acquisition, more so because of the fact that, before the age of seven, a child has a phenomenal ability to learn language. From the age of eight years, the child’s ability to learn language is equal to that of an adult. It is therefore wise if parents exploit this wonderful opportunity that is presented only once in every child’s life, and only for a short period of time.
Parents should talk to their baby ― and later toddler ― as often and as much as possible. Saying what you are doing, while you are doing it builds your child’s vocabulary. Talking about cleaning the house, or making dinner, or driving down the road, helps build a child’s vocabulary. Here are some phrases you may want to try when you’re in the food market:
• “Look, these apples are red, but those other apples are green.”
• “This is called a blueberry? Should you like to try one today?”
• “Tell me about the pineapple? What do you see, smell, feel?”
• “How many words can you use to describe the banana? Let’s count!”
• “I love the way oranges smell, so fresh.”
It is also important that time should be set aside for reading stories and/or telling stories on a daily basis. However, it is vital that the same story be read or told over and over. The same story should be read to the child for a month or two before a new story — a slightly more advanced one — is introduced. This new story must also be read over and over for a month or two.
Effective language acquisition is dependent upon ample repetition of the same words, phrases and language structures. So don’t forget to teach your child nursery rhymes! Research has shown that knowledge of nursery rhymes among three-year-olds was a significant predictor of later prereading skills even after the children’s IQ and their mothers’ educational levels were taken out of the equation.
Pay attention to cognitive development
There are many cognitive skills involved in reading, spelling, writing, mathematics and learning. One important skill is position-in-space, which is one’s ability to perceive an object’s position in space relative to oneself and the direction in which it is turned (for example: up, down, in front, behind, between, left, right).
A child with a position-in-space problem has difficulty dealing with directions of objects in relation to self, such as “to my right,” “to my left,” “above me,” “below me,” etc. Such a child has difficulty following directions on paper-pencil tasks such as “write your name in the top right-hand corner,” “draw a line under the word ______,” and the like. He may also confuse letters like b and d, numbers like 17 and 71, or write backward, from right to left, the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.
The secret is to practice the directions left and right, up and down, etc. until they have been completely automatized.
Other cognitive skills of importance include:
• Focused and sustained attention
• Visual processing skills such as form discrimination, size discrimination, synthesis and analysis, and visual closure
• Auditory discrimination, auditory foreground-background differentiation and auditory blending
• Visual, auditory, sequential, short-term, long-term and working memory
Counting is a prerequisite for math
Counting can be regarded as the language of mathematics. It is therefore important to teach a child from very early in life to count well. The easiest way to teach children to count is to start with their fingers, first with the fingers of one hand and then later both hands.
Gradually extend to higher numbers, using other objects:
• Count shoes in a closet or socks in a drawer
• Count flowers along your driveway
• Count houses as your drive past them
Remember that, like with anything else, much repetition is required.
Fine motor skills are conditional for writing
Fine motor skills refer to the control over the muscles that regulate the small or fine movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists.
Parents should make provision for the fine motor development of their child, as fine motor skills are important in many school activities as well as in life in general. Weaknesses in fine motor skills can affect a child’s ability to eat, write legibly, use a computer, turn pages in a book, and perform personal care tasks such as dressing and grooming.
Some suitable activities for developing fine motor skills are the following:
• Throwing and catching-games with a ball or beanbag
• Coloring and drawing
• Cutting with scissors
• Drawing simple forms which the child must then copy
• Playing with clay
• Crumpling a sheet of soft paper into a tight ball with one hand only.