Because many preschools, elementary schools and families differ on the meaning of school readiness and the related skills and abilities a child should possess upon kindergarten entry, the University of Illinois Chicago College of Education has created a free access kindergarten readiness website for teachers, families and others.
The recently launched website, The Ready Child, provides a shared definition of kindergarten readiness, as well as a website full of resources to give users the knowledge and skills needed to help children succeed in kindergarten. The site provides families and teachers the resources to work together to identify each child’s unique strengths, and to build on those strengths, said the project’s director Kathleen Sheridan, UIC associate professor and chair of the educational psychology department.
“Our team at UIC built this kindergarten resource with the premise that adults who care for young children, including families and teachers, want and need easy access to information and resources so that they can equip themselves with the necessary knowledge, resources and skills. to support the development of rising kindergartners,” Sheridan said.
The Ready Child, funded by the CME Group Foundation, is the latest installment of the College of Education’s early learning series.
Other websites in the series include Early Math Counts, also funded by the CME Group Foundation, and Early Science Matters, funded by the Caplan Foundation for Early Childhood and a gift from philanthropist Marjorie Pelino.
Since research shows that children fare better in kindergarten when collaborations are forged between home and school during the preschool process, the site is intended to assist parents and teachers who share the responsibility for the education of young children.
Despite areas of disagreement on what skills are most important for children to learn before transitioning to kindergarten, there is a consensus that when children are unprepared for the transition to school, they experience short- and long-term developmental, social and economic consequences.
The Ready Child has five core objectives:
- To define school readiness as it ensures to the whole child, which includes physical and cognitive development, as well as language skills, attention, emotional regulation, play skills and social skills.
- To shift the paradigm from readying children for kindergarten to readying schools and families for children, wherever they may be on the “readiness continuum” when they enter the kindergarten classroom.
- To encourage educators to view children and their families from a strength-based perspective.
- To provide practical activities and ideas for supporting young children’s growth at home and in the classroom.
- To provide online, open-access and user-friendly kindergarten-readiness resources.
The focus of The Ready Child is on pre-K families and teachers and is broken down into three sections, including The Ready Child, where people can learn about the five areas of kindergarten readiness; The Ready Family, where family members can find the resources needed to help their child succeed; and the Ready School, where teachers and child care providers can build on the strengths children bring to the classroom.
Anyone can access the website to:
- Learn about the characteristics of a kindergarten-ready child.
- Find out about the significant role that families can play in promoting kindergarten readiness.
- Discover how to set up hands-on, sensory-rich learning environments.
- Access a wealth of free kindergarten-readiness activities and resources.
- Learn how to identify and build on the strengths that children and families bring to the kindergarten classroom.
- Read/subscribe to blog posts by an early learning expert.
The Early Math Counts and the Early Science Matters sites are frequented by thousands of monthly users, and the UIC developers are preparing to launch a public awareness campaign for The Ready Child.
“The transition to kindergarten can be a big adjustment for the child as well as the families involved,” Sheridan said. “During this transition time, families and preschool teachers are often looking for resources to help them prepare to support their children where they are at developmentally.”
The CME Group Foundation was created in 2008 and endowed with a gift of $16 million from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Trust. The foundation works to advance the economy by supporting education from cradle to career, primarily in the Chicago region. CME’s early education funding is largely centered on its Early Math Education Initiative, which aims to improve math skills in the birth through a third-grade demographic.
Recently, the CME Group Foundation broadened its focus to improve kindergarten readiness by increasing the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, assessment scores for Black, Latinx and low-income children in Illinois. After investing $11.7 million in early math education over the past 11 years, the foundation’s board decided to expand the organization’s early childhood education focus to include all three domains measured by the KIDS assessment.