Written By: Christy S. Renjilian
I have a saying posted in my office—one that I have moved all over the country to serve as a reminder of the goal of my life’s work.
It says: “Children do not drop out in high school. They drop out in kindergarten and wait ten years to make it official.”
And decades of research from educators, economists, social scientists, and policy analysts studying a wide array of indicators and outcomes have proven this to be true.
The trajectory of a child’s life is grounded in what happens during the first five years—long before that first day of kindergarten.
Kindergarten readiness is more than inviting children and their families to practice riding the bus before the first day of school, being introduced to their teachers, and popsicles on the playground to meet their classmates.
It’s not something that can wait until the child is four or until the week prior to starting kindergarten. It’s not just attending a program at the library, an early childhood education, or an educational nonprofit. And it’s not even just about the child.
These are all important pieces that have the great intention of educating and empowering children.
But here’s the truth. . . kindergarten readiness is a philosophy, based on research and neuroscience that understands the profound role the first five years of life have on the next 90+ years.
And it’s a deep seeded commitment to ensure those first five years are the best possible for ALL children and their families.
Let’s look at the changes in education over time — particularly the earliest elementary years.
A More Modern Approach to Kindergarten Readiness
Decades of research confirm that young children need continuity of high-quality
experiences throughout early childhood in order to realize their potential. Continuity
here refers both to the alignment of care and learning as children grow older and to the
coordination of programs and services at each stage of development.
Experiences should build on previous ones as children increase their knowledge and skills, and programs and services should be coordinated in order to have the largest impact [National Research Council, 2015; Reynolds & Temple, 2019; Tout, Halle, Dailly, Albertson-Junkans, & Moodie, 201].
And how do children learn best? Through play and relationships with caring adults.
Children don’t need fancy toys, worksheets, or flashcards. Young children need active play with a wide variety of materials like boxes and blocks, puzzles, manipulatives, and the outdoors.
They need to be read to and talked with.
One of the experts on Kindergarten Readiness, Pianta, in his book, Successful Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting, Children, Families, and Schools, identified four types of connections that support the transition to kindergarten:
- Child-School Connections
There are two goals of this connection: (a) to increase children’s familiarity with the kindergarten setting, including the classroom, school environment, and their new teachers; and (b) to increase the teachers’ familiarity with individual children.
- Family-School Connections
The goal of this connection is to increase family collaboration and engagement with the school during the transition process.
- School-School Connections
The goal of this connection is to support the transition between Head Start, pre-K, and preschools with kindergarten classrooms.
- Community-School Connections
The goal of this connection is to support continuity in the transition process by using resources within the community. These resources may include community organizations, houses of worship, physicians’ offices, cultural organizations, and more.
Essentially, a more holistic approach is desired to effect change.
We’ve come to understand that effective transitions result in gains in Kindergarten, things like reduced stress at the beginning of the school year, improved academic growth in kindergarten, and increased family involvement.
Why Business Owners, Legislators, and the General Public Should Care About Kindergarten Readiness
It is important to our society — and our culture — to nurture, care for, and evolve our youth. Our youth is our future — skilled workers, tradespeople, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, leaders in faith, and community advocates.
A child’s exposure to early literacy — sounds, books, back-and-forth conversations — can predict whether or not they will be reading on grade level by third grade. And if you’re not reading on grade level you are more likely to require special education support, drop out of school, be under or unemployed, or be in the correctional system.
Adverse experiences in the early years impacts the brain and the neuro connections that are formed. This in turn can lead to difficulties learning and interacting with peers and adults. Children struggling in school, whether it’s early education or kindergarten, often result in suspensions or expulsions.
Research by the Foundation for Child Development shows that per capita more children are expelled in childcare settings than in K-12.
These disruptions in a child’s learning result in workplace challenges for his or her parents — increased absenteeism, distractedness, turnover etc. It’s a ripple effect.
It’s essential that political leaders and the business community at large see high-quality child care and kindergarten readiness as multigenerational issues impacting both the current and future workforce.
How Community Connections for Children, Inc. Impacts Kindergarten Readiness
Community Connections for Children is honored to partner with David Jacobson to bring First 10 to the
communities we serve.
Currently, eight communities are focused on families — aged 0 through 10 (third grade) — to make certain that all children get off to the best possible start.
CCC has invested and secured through a variety of individuals and foundations approximately $400,000 in the past two years to support this important work.
These efforts and those of the local First 10 teams have resulted in:
- Play and Learn groups to support our youngest families
- Joint professional development sessions between Early Childhood Educators and Kindergarten through 12th Grade Teachers
- Increased access to and connection with community resources to support families
- Linking developmentally appropriate curricula, particularly in the areas of early literacy, to support children’s learning
- Assisting the K-12 system to understand the critical work of the ECE system and how play is the work and learning of the early years.
We understand that “the first decade of a child’s life provides the foundation for later learning, growth, and development. Too many children, however, face a number of obstacles from a very young age, particularly those who struggle with the effects of poverty and ongoing opportunity
Gaps.” [David Jacobson, All Children Learn and Thrive].
It’s why we are committed to working collaboratively with child care providers, parents, government, businesses and community leaders to assure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care.
We believe that the children of today are critical to our future and recognize that parents, as diverse individuals, have the right and responsibility to make choices for their children’s future.
And we know our students enjoy learning and simply want to be heard.
About Community Connections for Children, Inc.
Community Connections for Children, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic.
For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.
Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.