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Is Your Child Ready for Elementary School?

< Starting Young

Is Your Child Ready for Elementary School?

There are many things parents can do to help their children succeed in elementary school.

Your Child's Capacity to Learn
Young children have a tremendous capacity to learn. You can support your child's capacity to learn by involving your children in activities that require talking, exploring and experimenting.

Research shows that parent involvement helps children's learning. You can foster learning by:

  • Showing your child that learning is both enjoyable and important.
  • Encouraging your child to play, which helps him or her learn, explore, develop social skills, solve problems, listen, negotiate, take turns and share.
  • Encouraging your child to take part in various conversations throughout the day.
  • Asking your child questions that require him or her to give more than a "yes" or "no" response.
  • Answering your child's questions, and also encouraging your child to answer his or her own questions.
  • Listening to your child.
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Preparing Your Child for School: Socially and Emotionally
Children start school with different levels of social and emotional maturity. To do well, they need the following qualities:
  • Confidence - feeling good about his or her abilities to succeed;
  • Independence - doing things for himself or herself;
  • Motivation - wanting to learn;
  • Curiosity - using his or her natural curiosity to learn;
  • Persistence - finishing what he or she starts;
  • Cooperation - getting along with others and being able to share and take turns;
  • Self-control - knowing there are good and bad ways to express emotions; and
  • Empathy - having an interest in others and understanding how others feel.
You can help your child develop these qualities by:
  • Showing your child that you care about him or her. Children who feel loved are more likely to be confident;
  • Setting a good example. When you treat other people with respect, your child probably will too;
  • Letting your child do things by himself or herself;
  • Encouraging your child to make his or her own choices, rather than deciding everything for him or her;
  • Helping your child find positive ways to solve conflicts with others; and
  • Creating opportunities for your child to share and care.
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Reading is at the Heart of All Learning
Helping your child become a reader is the most important thing you can do to help him or her succeed in school.

You can make reading an enjoyable experience by:

  • Reading to your child frequently;
  • Choosing a comfortable place where your child can sit near you;
  • Being enthusiastic about reading;
  • Pointing word-by-word as you read a book to help your child learn that reading goes from left to right;
  • Reading your child's favorite book over and over;
  • Reading stories with rhyming words and repeated lines;
  • Stopping and asking about the pictures and what is happening in the story;
  • Offering explanations, making observations and helping your child to notice new information;
  • Explaining words your child may not know;
  • Pointing out how the pictures in the book relate to the story; and
  • Talking about the characters' actions and feelings.
You can lay the groundwork for reading and writing by developing your child's listening and speaking skills. By the time your child enters elementary school, he or she should be able to:
  • Listen carefully for different purposes;
  • Use spoken language for a variety of purposes;
  • Follow and give simple directions;
  • Ask and answer questions;
  • Use appropriate volume and speed when he or she speaks; and
  • Use language to express and describe his or her feelings and ideas.
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What Skills and Knowledge Will My Child's Kindergarten Teacher Expect?
Expectations will differ at each school, but some commonly expected skills for kindergartners include the ability to:
  • Recognize, name and print alphabet letters he or she often sees, such as his or her own name;
  • Listen attentively to and follow instructions;
  • Understand that words convey meaning and know that words run from left to right across the page and from top to bottom;
  • Concentrate on and finish a task;
  • Notice and work with sounds of language and recognize when a series of words begin with the same sound;
  • Use spoken language to express his or her thoughts and ideas;
  • Follow school and classroom rules;
  • Produce circles, lines, scribbles and letters as part of his or her early writing;
  • Recognize numbers and understand that they stand for quantity, order and measurement;
  • Know how to hold and look at a book;
  • Recognize, name and manipulate basic shapes; and
  • Do as much for themselves as possible, such as taking care of their personal belongings, going to the toilet, washing their hands and taking care of and putting away materials.
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For more information:
  • Helping Your Pre-School Child, U.S. Department of Education, 1993, revised 2002.
  • Prepare My Child for School,, U.S. Department of Education, Ongoing
  • Questions Parents Ask About Schools, U.S. Department of Education, 2003.
  • Helping Your Pre-School Child, U.S. Department of Education, 1993, revised 2002.
  • Making Connections: How Children Learn, A Summary of Recent Brain Research, U.S. Department of Education, 1997
  • Prepare My Child for School, U.S. Department of Education, Ongoing
  • Questions Parents Ask About Schools, U.S. Department of Education, 2003.