Success in the first few years of school is a critical indicator in how well our kids will develop for the rest of their lives. Students who experience early academic success are more likely to do well throughout their school career, go on to higher education, and obtain good jobs.
There's mostly good news in the latest report from Child Trends on how well our kids performed on selected readiness skills. Compared to kids in 1993, today's pre-kindergarten kids were more likely to recognise letters of the alphabet (21 percent to 38 percent), count to at least 20 (52 percent to 68 percent), and write their names (50 percent to 58 percent).
About 22 percent of young children can read words in a book, compared to about 3 percent in 1998.
While there were no significant differences between young boys and girls on these skills, other trends were evident. Children living with more educated parents generally achieved higher scores in all areas. Poverty was also a key predictor of performance. Children growing up in economically disadvantaged homes were academically less prepared for school than other children.
Living in poverty and having less educated parents are related. These factors contribute to a terrible cycle of failure. Kids entering kindergarten from such families are generally not ready for school. They experience early failure, develop a negative attitude about learning and themselves, and are less likely to graduate from high school.
About 81 percent of our kids graduate from high school, only a modest improvement from the 74 percent who graduated in 1990. Failure to obtain a high school diploma places young people at a high risk for all kinds of social, emotional, and behavioral problems.
Helping our kids succeed in kindergarten doesn't require sophisticated technology. Here's what you can do.
1. Read to and with your child. This is the easiest, simplest, and cheapest way to prepare your child for academic success. Begin reading when your child is an infant. This should involve both moms and dads.
Reading is a great activity for both children and parents. Kids develop language and thinking skills. Reading brings parents and kids closer together, both physically and psychologically. As your child acquires skills, let them read words and make up stories about the pictures.
2. Focus on self-control. Children need a high degree of self-control to succeed in school and in life. Teach your kids about the importance of delayed gratification, completing small chores, and the appropriate way to behave when emotionally upset.
3. Help someone else. Perhaps we can't end poverty or get everyone to graduate from high school. However, you can make a difference in the life of one person. Consider volunteering to read to a young child.
The New York Times