School Readiness for Children, Families, Teachers and Schools #13

There is more to school readiness than a child being the right age, knowing some numbers and learning to share. School readiness is about our whole community. This post talks about the what families, early care providers, teachers and schools can do to give children the best possible start to 'big' school.

You can listen to this episode above, listen to it on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcript below.

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What is school readiness?
In the 1800s Horace Mann said, and I paraphrase, “Education is the great equalizer, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” He believed that getting everyone into school would mean equal opportunities for all. However, by the mid 1900s it was realised that this wasn’t enough. Children from poorer families were not growing up and having the same rates of employment and income as middle class kids.

There are many reasons for this, of course, but today we’re talking about school readiness. What it is and why it’s so important, not just for individual children and their families, but for society as a whole.
School readiness is controversial
The very term, ‘school readiness’ is controversial. If you use Google Scholar you’ll find nearly 150 different definitions, so how are parents who are wanting to help their child get ready for school supposed to know what will be the most beneficial?

Traditionally, school readiness was simply a matter of chronological age and as long as a child could manage basic expectations for that age group they were considered ready for school. In other words, it all came down to the individual child.

The downside to this approach was that it was too simplistic. It meant that early childhood services and the community did not really have anything to do with preparing a child for school, and it also meant that schools did not have to think about the needs of the children coming in.

These days the term ‘school readiness’ makes you think of a child knowing basic numbers and letters and how to play nicely with others. However, this is also too limited. School readiness is much more than that!
A research definition
The definition I’m using today is broader. Please keep in mind that this is a research-based post, so my comments are based on research papers I’ve been reading, and most are not my own original ideas. You can find the list of papers at the end of this post.

And just to clarify, I’m talking about the first year of formalised school, whatever that is called in your region. I refer to Kindergarten a lot because that’s what it’s called in my state, in other states it’s called Prep, and I know in some countries Kindergarten happens prior to official schooling.

This definition of school readiness is actually an equation.

Ready families + Ready early childhood services + Ready Communities + Ready schools = Ready children.

In other words, children will only be ready for school if their families, day care providers and communities have given them the opportunities they need to be ready. This takes the onus off the child and hands responsibility back to us.

It would be good to add a ready society to that list also, because society as a whole needs to accept the importance of preparing children for school so they’ll put money and programming into supporting it. Research strongly shows that supporting children and their families prior to school entry is much more successful in the long-term, and much cheaper, than trying to intercede when children are older.
A ready family
Parent expectations
Over the past 100 years, doing well in school has come to mean an increased likelihood of a good job and a good life. In response to this parents have felt increasingly pressured to teach their children before they start school so they’ll have an edge over other children,

from The Early Childhood Research Podcast http://ift.tt/22m3HNX