Vital Signs: Too Many Aren't Kindergarten Ready

posted Sep 26, 2013, 11:18 AM by BHC Staff   [ updated Oct 24, 2013, 4:48 PM ]
Originally Printed in The Triplicate on June 2, 2012
Seventy-seven percent of Del Norte kindergarteners began the school year without the skills to 
be academically successful by the third grade, a study funded by First 5 Del Norte says. 

Only 23 percent of kindergarteners started the school year with the combination of self-regulation and kindergarten academic skills the study’s authors say is the strongest predictor of academic success 3.5 years later.

“We tend to look at school success as mostly academic, but we need to focus on the whole child concept rather than the academics,” said Patricia Vernelson, executive director of First 5 Del Norte. “Little people need social and emotional skills and confidence; and they need to be able to control impulses, follow directions, negotiate solutions, play cooperatively and handle frustrations without falling apart. Those self-regulation skills are not understood enough and are critical.” 

Two factors related to higher levels of school readiness were children not appearing tired in class and parents receiving readiness information and engaging in transition activities for their child.

“The greater the percentage of students we have truly ready to enter our school system, the better the opportunity that they are going to have to be successful,” said Don Olson, superintendent of Del Norte County Unified School District. “Early intervention is the key if we are to solve these individual needs.”

Vernelson and Olson, part of the Building Healthy Communities collaborative, suggest the following: 
  • Provide opportunities for pretend play at home and in the classroom. Imaginative play gives children a chance to safely explore feelings while practicing and learning about social norms and rules. 
  • Structure the home and classroom so that children have daily opportunities to make choices, think ahead, plan activities and consider and use strategies to solve social problems. Self-regulation activities such as paying attention, following directions and controlling frustration and anger must be practiced early and often. 
  • Read with children. Use their books, or create stories, to talk about emotions and different ways people respond when they feel frustrated or angry. 
  • Establish regular bedtime.  Make sure your child gets eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Students who appear to be tired on some, most or all days are less prepared in all school readiness areas – especially self-regulation. 
  • Higher family income is associated with higher readiness. Call First 5 Del Norte and the Del Norte Family Resource Center at 464-0955 or to find out about local resources that include help with basic needs, parenting classes, and assistance for a special needs child.
  • Contact the Del Norte County Unified School District at 464-6146 or visit Scroll under Parent Information on the left and click on Kindergarten Information. Links to kindergarten preparedness websites and transitional kindergarten at Bess Maxwell School are there.