School and Home School Readiness—Preparing Children for Kindergarten and Beyond
03:04 | 07/01/2014


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Is your child ready to begin school? Most adults remember kindergarten as a relaxed opportunity to learn the formal reading and math skills needed for first grade through guided play activities. However, because current public policy demands that schools meet higher standards, young children today often find themselves in increasingly rigorous academic programs beginning as early as kindergarten. This article will guide you to your child’s school readiness.

The concept of school readiness typically refers to the child’s attainment of a certain set of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive skills needed to learn, work, and function successfully in school. Unfortunately, this common philosophy of “ready for
school” places an undue burden on children by expecting them to meet the expectations of school.

A more constructive way to consider school readiness is to remove the expectations from the child and place those expectations onto the schools and the families. Young children have wide ranging needs and require support in preparing them for the high standards of learning they will face in elementary school.

Characteristics of School Readiness

Stated in simple terms, school readiness means that a child is ready to enter a social environment that is primarily focused on education. Research has suggested that many aspects of children’s lives influence their preparation for formal school learning, including cognitive, social, emotional, and motor development, and, most importantly, early home, parental, and preschool experiences. Consideration of school readiness must take into account the range and quality of children’s early life experiences, The following list of behaviours and/or characteristics are often associated with early school success:


  • Ability to follow structured daily routines, simple rules
  • Ability to work independently with supervision.
  • Ability to listen and pay attention to what someone else is saying.
  • Ability to get along with and cooperate with other children.
  • Ability to work with puzzles, scissors, coloring, paints,etc.
  • Ability to count or acquire the skill with instruction.
  • Ability to recite the alphabet (or quickly learn with instruction), write their own name, or to acquire the skill with instruction.
  • Ability to identify shape, colors, sound units in words, and recognize rhyme.


What Parents Can Do to Help Prepare Children for School


Family environment is very important in shaping children’s early development, and parents can help their children develop the skills they will need to be ready for school.


The following list is a collection of activities that parents can do with their children to increase their child’s general readiness for school.


  • Take time to talk to, and spend time playing, cuddling, hugging, and reading with your child.
  • Create and enforce a routine within your home that your child needs to follow (i.e., times of meals, naptimes, and bedtimes).
  • Encourage and answer questions from your child.
  • Engage in informal reading and counting activities at home.
  • Promote your child’s cognitive development by showing and encouraging your child to think about the world around them.
  • Promote play that helps develop literacy skills, problem-solving skills, creativity, and imagination.
  • Familiarize children with the alphabet and with numbers.
  • Ensure opportunity to develop social skills through playgroups or more formal preschool activities.
  • Encourage behaviors that demonstrate respect and courtesy.
  • Encourage children to accept responsibility and build competence through simple chores such as putting toys away and picking up clothes.


Promoting Readiness to Read


Children are ready to read when they have developed an ear for the way words sound, can identify rhyme and alliteration, can blend sounds, recognize onset rhyme (initial sounds), and can identify sound units in words. Together these skills are called phonological awarenessand usually emerge in children between ages two and six.
Children with good phonological awareness skills usually learn to read quickly.


Phonological awareness.There are many things that parents can do to facilitate phonological awareness and improve their child’s readiness to read:


  • Read nursery rhymes, sing songs, and clap along with the rhythm.
  • Play games with words that sound alike as you experience them in everyday life. (“We’re passing ‘Mike’s Bikes,’ that’s a funny name because they sound alike!”)
  • Demonstrate how sounds blend together in familiar words. (“Let’s sign your name on Grandma’s card, T-om--- Tom.”)
  • Play a game where the goal is to find objects withnames that begin with a certain initial sound; this is a great game for walks or car rides.
  • Play clapping games and clap with each distinct sound. (“‘C-a-t’ is a three clap word; so is ‘fam-i-ly.’”)


Comprehension. Parents can build the following comprehension skills: attending to short stories by readingshort high interest books and reading the same favoritesover and over; connecting story and titles by predicting the story from the title; making predictions about stories and following simple plots by asking questions while reading (“What’s going to happen now?”) and allowing children to retell stories; and communicating feelings and ideas by allowing children to talk and tell stories even when they do not appear to make much sense.


Print awareness. Another important readiness skill that helps children learn to read is called print awareness. Print awareness means that the child:

  • Knows the difference between pictures and print.
  • Understands that print can appear alone or with pictures.
  • Recognizes that print occurs in different mediums (pencil, crayon, ink), and on different surfaces (paper, computer screen, billboard).
  • Understands that words are read left to right, and the lines of text are read top to bottom.
  • Understands the function of white space between words.
  • Knows the difference between letters and words. Parents can build print awareness by pointing out print as distinct from pictures in everyday life (e.g., “That’s a sign for ‘women.’ That says ‘women.’”); pointing out store and restaurant marquees; pointing out print with and without pictures (e.g., “Here’s a page with just words!”); pointing out words written in different media and on different surfaces (e.g., “Look, someone wrote on that wall with spray paint!”); occasionally tracing words with your finger as you read; note that we begin reading at the top (point to the top and say, “Here’s where we start!”); playing find the word games with your child; and teaching the alphabet via songs and rhymes and talking about which letters make up familiar words.
  • Book handling.Children also need to learn book handling skills such as orienting a book correctly andrecognizing the beginning and the end. Giving children theirown books or letting them take books from the local library helps. Allowing children to hold books while being read to and asking them to open the book at the beginning and close
  • the book at the end of the story facilitate book handling skills.


Inclusion, learning environment including supportive parents, enriched home environment, and school curriculum are very important in shaping children’s early development.


Source: By Mary Ann Rafoth, PhD, NCSP, Erin L. Buchenauer, MEd, Katherine Kolb Crissman, MEd, & Jennifer L. Halko

Indiana University of Pennsylvania.


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