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School Readiness

What is School Readiness?

School readiness means that a child is ready to learn how to do things independently and enter a social and educational environment. A school ready child should be able to:

  • Express thoughts 
  • Listen and ask questions
  • Speak with others
  • Use a growing vocabulary
  • Be curious, active, and want to learn
  • Follow directions
  • Be familiar with “classroom setup” (e.g., teacher at front)
  • Work by himself and with others
  • Think before she acts
  • Share and take turns
  • Be experienced with and excited about books
  • Be aware of language and written words
  • Understand how words are put together
  • Sit quietly for short periods of time (as instructed by her teacher)


How Do I Make Sure My Child Is Ready for School?

1. Foster confidence and a sense of safety withdaily routines so that your baby learns what to expect from his world. 

If a child feels safe and loved, he is more likely to feel confident about himself and to make friends with others.   Self-esteem and social awareness are just as important to school success as familiarity with letters and numbers.

  • Have a set bedtime with a song, story or prayer.
  • Have a set place to eat meals.
  • Hold hands with your toddler as she begins to walk.
  • Praise her when she does something right.

2. Talk, sing, and play games with your child.

  • Talk to your child in any language, using as many words as you can to help build vocabulary.
  • Include your child in everyday conversations. Use lots of detail and short sentences.
  • Repeat words and phrases. Repetition helps children develop familiarity with the building blocks of language.
  • Don’t expect your child to say every word correctly.  Let him make his own mistakes and then casually ‘model’ the correct pronunciation.
  • Sing, dance, and clap with your baby, even if you don’t think your singing voice is good.
  • Take walks together and describe the things you see along the way.
  • Use everyday items to introduce math.  Ask questions like, “How many cookies are on the plate?” and count them.

3. Use books with your baby. 

  • Always have books for children in your home; it doesn’t matter if they are library books or if you own them.
  • Board books are great for babies and toddlers. Don’t be surprised if they chew on them. It’s part of their learning experience at a young age.
  • Describe the pictures, or ask, “Where’s the dog?” and then point to a dog while saying “Here he is!” 
  • Change your voice to enhance the actions in the book.
  • Either read the book aloud or, if the story is too long, make up your own words to match the pictures as you turn the pages.
  • To teach a love of books, read to your child in a comfortable, relaxed, and loving environment.  Forcing children (or yelling at them) to sit still and listen is not useful.  Even a toddler who can’t sit still will benefit from a positive interaction with you and a book.
  • Let your baby see you reading.  Be a reading role model.

4. Bring your child to the library.

  • Bring your child to early childhood programs at your local public library. Libraries have free programs for children of all ages.
  • During the summer, sign your child up for the Summer Reading Challenge at your library. Even babies can play!

You do NOT need a college education, a background in child development, or a large home in order to give your baby the foundation needed to be smart and do well in school. Scientific studies have proven that there are things anyone can do to help their child be successful in school and in life.

Reading With Your Child

  • Make reading part of every day, even for just a few minutes. Have fun.
  • Talk about the pictures. You do not have to read the book to tell a story.
  • Let your child turn the pages.
  • Show your child the cover page and explain what the story is about.
  • Run your finger along the words as you read them.
  • Silly sounds, especially animal sounds, are fun to make.
  • Choose books about events in your child’s life such as starting preschool, going to the dentist, getting a new pet, or moving to a new home.
  • Make the story come alive. Create voices for the story characters.
  • Ask questions about the story. What do you think will happen next? What is this?
  • Let your child ask questions about the story. Talk about familiar activities and objects.
  • Let your child retell the story.
  • Visit your local library often.

What Can the Botetourt County Libraries Do to Help My Child Get Ready for School?

The Botetourt County Libraries offer programs that help children get ready for school by providing the following:

  • Experience with routine: builds comfort with the structure of school 
  • Experience with social skills: shows how sharing, taking turns, and appreciating other people are important
  • Movement: develops motor skills
  • Vocabulary: increases through the repetition of rhymes
  • Music: develops listening skills
  • Art: provides an outlet for creativity and expression
  • Experience with using books: shows how to turn pages, follow text, and match words to pictures
  • Relaxation: soothes infants with lullabies and music (and teaches parents skills and resources for relaxing infants)
  • Experience with verbal expression: teaches appropriate self-expression
  • Games: build self-confidence

What Does Brain Research Say About Children’s Learning?

“The brain does a lot of growing after birth. Billions of brain cells are already formed at birth. These cells connect with each other during the first years of life. And what happens to a baby affects the kinds of connections her brain makes.”  (from Building Baby’s Brain: What Parents Can Do, 1999)

  • Children begin learning when they are born.
  • Birth to age three are the most important years for building the brain strength necessary for learning later in life.
  • Regular, affectionate caregiver/child bonding is needed for healthy brain development.
  • Having a large vocabulary gives children a strong start in school.  Talking to your child in any language helps him develop vocabulary.
  • Adult social skills are developed in early childhood when children first learn to interact with others.
  • Children learn best through repeated experiences.
  • Singing to your child (even if you can’t sing on key!) helps her learn.
  • Raising children in a joyful and calm environment promotes brain development; raising children in a stressful environment negatively affects brain development.
  • Babies thrive in nurturing atmospheres.
  • Play is essential for a child’s healthy development.
  • Listening to classical music can help develop math and science abilities in addition to helping the body.

Resources for Further Information

The Center for Development & Learning 
The Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to increased school success for all children. Get answers to questions about your child’s health or hear real-life stories from other parents.

Posted by the Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health, this website provides access to reliable, up-to-date, health information about children from before birth through adolescence.

Literacy Center.Net ~ The Early Childhood Education Network serves more than a million free literacy lessons a month to children in 141 countries. It provides safe learning activities for parents and teachers to share with young children. All online lessons are free of advertising and free of charge.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children
To learn more about giving children a good start, look at Early Years Are Learning Years™, an ongoing effort to focus attention on the importance of the early years for children’s learning and all aspects of development.

Reading is Fundamental
The largest non-profit literacy organization in the United States, Reading is Fundamental motivates children from birth to age eight to read by providing free books and literacy resources. The parents’ website includes tips for inspiring children to read, featured books for children of all ages, and activities.

Reading Rockets
Reading Rockets makes the most up-to-date research on reading instruction available in accessible multimedia formats to those who need it such as parents, teachers, librarians, and other childcare providers.  Subscribe to Reading Rockets parenting tips delivered to your inbox.

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