What is school readiness? And what factors lead children to be most ready for that key milestone for any family — one of the first markers for a child’s progression through the education system and long path to adulthood — Kindergarten?
To understand, it’s useful to review a Child Trends Data Bank study title “Early School Readiness: Indicators of Child and Youth Well-Being.”
“Children who enter school with early skills, such as a basic knowledge of math and reading, are more likely than their peers to experience later academic success, attain higher levels of education, and secure employment.”
As the 2015 report states: “Children who enter school with early skills, such as a basic knowledge of math and reading, are more likely than their peers to experience later academic success, attain higher levels of education, and secure employment. Absence of these and other skills may contribute to even greater disparities down the road. For example, one study found that gaps in math, reading, and vocabulary skills evident at elementary school entry explained at least half of the racial gap in high school achievement scores.”
The authors note that according to the National Education Goals Panel, school readiness comprises five areas: (1) physical well-being and motor development; (2) social and emotional development; (3) approaches to learning; (4) language development (including early literacy); and (5) cognition and general knowledge.
But school readiness encompasses more than just preparing for the “three R’s.” The report notes: “While cognitive development and early literacy are important for children’s school readiness and early success in school, other areas of development, like health, social development, and engagement, may be of equal or greater importance.”
Differences in School Readiness
The good news is that “the proportion of pre-kindergarten three- to six-year-old children able to demonstrate cognitive and early literacy skills has increased over time.” However, a number of factors can lead to differences in school readiness.
- Poverty Status: “Young pre-kindergarten children living in poverty are much less likely to have cognitive and early literacy readiness skills than are children living above the poverty threshold.”
- Gender: “Although in 1999 young girls were significantly more likely than young boys to achieve on all measures except reading, by 2012, there were no significant differences by gender.”
- Parent’s Education Level: “In general, children with more educated parents have better cognitive/literacy readiness skills.”
- Parent’s Home Language: “In 2012, young children who had at least one parent whose home language was English were more likely to demonstrate school readiness skills than those who had no parents whose home language was English.”
- Race and Hispanic Origin: “Overall, Hispanic children are less likely to demonstrate cognitive/literacy readiness skills than are white, black, or Asian/Pacific Islander children.”
- Age: “As expected, the percentage of young children displaying these school readiness skills increases with age.”