UNION COUNTY — The countdown has started — the Countdown to Kindergarten that is!
Students of all ages will soon bid farewell to summer and head back to the classroom. For some students, it will be the very first day of school! The first day of kindergarten is a major milestone for children and their parents. The first day of kindergarten usually brings a lot of nervous smiles from students and sometimes tears from parents. The wide range of emotions is evidence that Kindergarten is a big deal! Kindergarten is just the beginning of an exciting educational journey children experience.
For 19 students in Union County, their journey began earlier this summer with the Countdown to Kindergarten Program. The Countdown to Kindergarten program was developed in South Carolina and is now a model program in other states. The program pairs 19 rising kindergartners with their kindergarten teachers from Buffalo, Jonesville, Monarch, and Foster Park Elementary schools. The teachers visit with the families throughout the summer, introduce learning activities, and build a relationship with each family to support a smooth transition to kindergarten. For their last visit before school begins, the children are invited to the classroom to see where they will be learning, tour the school, and meet the principal! The goal of the program is to create awareness and knowledge for parents about the importance of home activities relating to literacy and hands-on learning leading up to kindergarten. The program instills confidence in children who are about to enter kindergarten and the world of school, and also teaches parents how to advocate for their children within the educational system.
When asked about how the program benefits the students and their families, Ms. Kim Davis, a kindergarten teacher at Foster Park Elementary school and a Countdown to Kindergarten teacher this summer had this to say: “The families get an opportunity to meet me and see how I interact and use teaching strategies with their student. I am able to show them how I use cookie sheets and magnetic letters, for example, and pause and ask questions while reading books aloud. The families are able to see some of the things that we will be doing during the school year and feel comfortable and confident in supporting their students’ educational journey.”
Ms. Davis also explained the benefit that she received too by being able to meet some her students before school even begins. “The greatest benefit I received was seeing my students’ faces light up when I pulled into their yard! They would be waiting on the porch for me smiling the biggest smiles ever! That was worth all the time in the world!”
Just as children in the Countdown to Kindergarten began preparing for their big adventure to kindergarten this summer, there are a few things that all parents and caregivers can do ahead of time to support a smooth transition to kindergarten for their little ones. Union County First Steps has created these tips designed to promote proper registration, encourage parent involvement, and link the importance of school readiness to children’s long-term academic success.
Tip No. 1: Register Ahead of Time!
If you have not already registered your child for kindergarten, do so now! Registering for school on the designated day ensures the school is prepared for your child to be there on the very first day! Contact your child’s school for more information. When registering your child, you will need:
• Proof of the child’s birth date (birth certificate)
• Proof of immunizations
• Social Security card
• Proof of address (ex. Utility bill, apartment/house lease agreement, or other mail listing address)
Tip #2: What Children (and Parents) Should Know Before Kindergarten Starts
Kindergarten will be jam packed with learning. Taking the time to prepare your child for this new experience will help ensure that he or she benefits as much as possible from the opportunity.
What Children Need to Know Before Starting Kindergarten
• Name, address, and phone number
• Be able to tie their shoes and get their coats and boots on and off
• Be able to use the bathroom and wash their hands
• Have experiences cooperating with other children; wait their turn, work with others, share supplies, etc.
• Use language appropriately, and extensively
• Have a healthy feeling of self-worth and positive feelings of self and of others (“can-do” attitude)
• Have good health and good nutrition habits
• Be a good listener
What Parents Should Know Before Their Child Starts Kindergarten
• When to register for kindergarten
• Which registration forms are required
• Their child’s kindergarten teacher’s name (once assigned).
• Which immunizations are required
• The daily schedule
• Transportation arrangements
• Lunch arrangements
• Ways to become involved in the child’s education and the school
(Sources: S.C. Dept. of Education, SC First Steps to School Readiness, and U.S. Department of Education)
Tip # 3: Hands-on FUN You Can Do At Home
Teaching and reinforcing skills children need for kindergarten can (and should!) be fun. Here are some learning activities that both you and your child will enjoy!
Word Play: Have fun with the sounds in words. Clap out the rhythm of your name and have your child do the same. Then try other people’s names (Jon-a-thon, La-toy-a).
• Say words that start with the same sound as your child’s name: Sam, soap, sandwich.
• Say the word slowly so that you hear the first sound. Have your child try to do the same.
• Find rhyming words in nursery rhymes.
• Say two words and ask your child if the words begin with the same sound.
• Suggested books include “Sheep on a Ship” by Nancy Shaw, “Hand Rhymes” by Marc Brown, and any other Mother Goose nursery rhymes or children’s poetry.
(Sources: Countdown to Kindergarten, Boston)
Tip # 4: Help Prepare Children For School By Reading Aloud To Them
Reading aloud is the best way to ensure your child will learn to read on his or her own and develop a love for reading. The more parents read to their children, the better readers they will become.
10 Suggested Books to Read With Your Child:
• Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
• Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
• Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise
• The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
• Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
• The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
• Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus
• A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss
• Miss Bendergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
• It Happens to Everyone by Bernice Myers
(Source: Leslie Barban, Richland County Public Library, S.C. First Steps)
Tip # 5: Establish a back to school routine
Getting into the routine:
• As school approaches, move bedtime back to an earlier time
• Start to make meal times more regular and aligned with the school schedule
• Put a positive spin on going to school. Talk about the fun things your child will be learning, the old friends he will see and the new friends he’ll make.
• If your child is anxious, reassure her that other children are anxious about starting school too.
• Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, bath time, and bedtime
• Arrange play-dates with friends from school to re-establish connections that may have been dropped for the summer, or create new ones.
Confirm Your Arrangements:
• Make sure your child knows where he is going after school.
• Double-check on your care plans and touch base with the providers before school starts.
Control the TV:
• As you get ready to go back to school, start to put limits on watching television if you haven’t done so during the summer.
• Set an example by not watching a lot of TV yourself. Have family activities such as reading or board games.
• Choose wisely. Some TV programs are valuable tool for learning and expanding one’s awareness of the world, but many are not.
Parents with small children can also access resources to support their child’s development through the Union County First Steps Facebook page and www.bornlearningupstatesc.org. For more information about the Countdown to Kindergarten program, please contact Ms. Beth Thompson at Union County First Steps at 864-429-1740, Ext. 134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.