Starting kindergarten can be a scary, confusing time - and that's for the parents.
Even though it's barely spring, it's already time for parents of preschoolers to begin the process of signing up their youngsters for the start of the school year next fall. To help provide the information those parents need - and to cut down on the fear and confusion - The News-Times today features a special section, The ABCs of Preschool, as a comprehensive guide for parents facing the preschool experience.
That takes care of the parents. But what do children need to know before they step into the classroom? Mom and dad themselves have that answer, educators say.
"A child attending school really needs to know his parents' names, first and last names," said Stevens Creek Elementary School Principal Michelle Paschal. "Some kids don't - it's 'mom' and 'dad.' For safety purposes, they need to know that the first time they step out into the world."
Beyond those basics - which also include knowing their own addresses and telephone numbers - new kindergartners also need time with mom and dad before coming to school, said kindergarten teacher Donna Turner of North Harlem Elementary.
"It's not so much what they know, but just having the experience of the parent spending the time reading to them, having that one-on-one time," Turner said. "Just taking that 10 minutes reading to your child, riding in the car talking to them on their level, enriching their vocabulary - that's important."
Letters and numbers for kindergartners do provide an important first-day boost when school starts, however.
"It's good if they at least have a familiarity with their ABCs," Evans Elementary School kindergarten teacher Beth Florie said. "They should know some of their numbers - one, two, three, four, five."
An 18-year veteran of kindergarten education, Florie also said children entering school should know how to spell their name and how to share.
"Knowing how to share helps a lot, because it keeps things from turning into total chaos.
"They all eventually fall in line," she said. "Some kids take a day, others a week, and some can take up to three months, but they all get it eventually."
Turner agrees - and after 16 years in the classroom, she says it's the unfolding potential of each child that has her looking forward to her next group of youngsters.
"There's nothing better than to get a child and they know three letters, and before Christmas we've accomplished all 26 letters and sounds, upper and lower case," Turner said. "And if I've got kids who already know all that stuff, good! We're going to go ahead and start reading."
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