Is the School Ready for Your Kindergartner?
by: Karen Nemeth
Many parents have questions about whether their child is ready for kindergarten. Don’t forget that it’s important for the school to be ready for your child as well. Young children are so different from each other - their maturity, language development, past experiences, home languages, physical and social development can vary widely. Kindergarten is a wonderful way to get children of all abilities, languages, and backgrounds ready for success in school – each in their own way. Here are some things you can do to help your school be ready for your child.
- Visit the school with your child. Stop in the main office and request a tour so you and your child know where he will enter and leave the school, where the bathrooms are, and what will happen during meals and fire drills. Try to let your child meet the school nurse, secretary, principal and social worker so they recognize him when he comes to school.
- Set aside time to read all the materials the school sends to you. Let the school know if you need things translated into another language or if you need someone to read the information to you. Be sure to return any forms or information the school requests. The more the staff and teachers know about your child, the better they can meet his or her needs.
- If the school asks you about the child’s home language, be sure to let them know any and all languages that your child is exposed to at home. Knowing more than one language is an asset and schools can provide the best supports for your child’s language and literacy development if they have this information.
- It’s also important to share with the school any concerns you may have about your child’s language, physical or learning development. Schools can provide a variety of highly effective supports for children at no cost to the family, so it is very important that you share information about your child’s needs as soon as possible.
- Make sure to let the teacher know if there are some things that are especially challenging for your child such as going to the bathroom, or staying calm when transitioning from one activity to another and make sure to . share the strategies you use to help your child so the teacher will know what works.
- Find out what supports your school offers to families. You might be surprised to learn that many schools have parent committees to help new families feel welcome and to answer questions they may have. There may be a school social worker or guidance counselor to help family members find literacy or English as a Second Language courses or help with social services. Many schools ask families to share family photos and information about family traditions, favorite foods and your child’s interests. If yours hasn’t asked yet, you might suggest it yourself.
- Ask how your child’s school will stay in touch with you and the best way to communicate with the teacher. Ideally, the teacher will be in touch with you before school starts or during the first week so you can get to know each other. Some schools send text messages. Others use secure websites or Facebook pages to share information.
- Some families are reluctant to provide information about their child’s language or abilities, or about the family income, for fear that their child will be labeled or tracked into a certain educational program. Keep in mind that the school has to ask your permission to place your child in any kind of special program. But, if they don’t have the right information about your child, he or she may have to wait many months to get the services that can help him or her learn. Time is so precious when children are young, so getting started is very important.
Your child is a unique individual who deserves the very best school experience to meet his or her needs. You can have a big impact on that success by partnering with your child’s school to make sure the school is ready for your child!
Karen Nemeth is an author, speaker and consultant on teaching young children who are dual language learners. She has written several articles and a book for NAEYC. She also has leadership roles in NABE and TESOL. She provides a wealth of information to support the field at her website: www.languagecastle.com.