According to child development experts, youngsters often enter kindergarten afraid of the unfamiliar surroundings, and it can take weeks for them to relax enough to learn.
To prepare children so that they are excited but not nervous about school, parents are encouraged to participate in School Readiness programs available in the community to families with young children at risk for failed school experiences.
“School Readiness programs provide a wide range of services to help children from birth to age 5 get ready for school and gain a strong foundation for elementary, middle and high school achievement,” said Evelyn Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization that funds School Readiness programs in Los Angeles County. “What happens to children before they are five can positively or negatively affect how they perform when they are 10, 15 and 20 years old.”
Among children who have the most to gain from School Readiness programs are English language learners. Research shows Spanish-speaking children in School Readiness programs did better on a key standardized test than did children in state preschool programs.
School Readiness programs are available through all eight L.A. County Service Planning Areas: The Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles Metro, West Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles and South Bay. And activities such as “mommy-and-me” type classes; “Mother Read” programs; case management services; a resource center; home visitation; childhood obesity and diabetes prevention classes are offered.
Martinez also emphasizes that families can do free and simple things at home every day to prepare children for school. To help them succeed, parents should have their child practice and master the skills below before they enter kindergarten:
* Hold a pencil or crayon properly.
* Run, jump and skip.
* Follow simple instructions.
* Wait his/her turn and share.
* Spend extended periods away from parents.
* Recognize shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle).
* Sort items by color, shape and size.
* Identify six parts of his/her body.
* Understand concept words such as up, down, in, out, behind and over.
* Count from one to 10.
* Recognize five colors.
* Try to write his/her name.
* Recognize his/her written name.
* Know how old he/she is.
For information on School Readiness and other First 5 LA programs in their communities, parents should call 1-888-347-7855 or visit www.first5la.org.
First 5 LA, a child advocacy organization created by California voters to invest Prop 10 tobacco tax revenues, supports programs for improving the lives of children from prenatal through age 5 in Los Angeles County.