Our four-year old will be starting kindergarten this Fall. That statement alone blows my mind, along with the terrifying notion that he'll be stepping onto that yellow bus and waving bye-bye all by himself (we plan to stalk that bus for at least two years...just to be safe...) He hardly seems out of diapers, and suddenly we are earnestly making our way to various kindergarten roundups and “presenting” our son to prospective new teachers, who gently question and interact with him to "gauge his readiness" (whatever that means). Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten is a great tool for any parent in our position, who want to understand what "kindergarten readiness" might actually mean in concrete terms. In one simple book, parents and teachers are provided with a quick and usable reference to everything their children will need to know for that first year.
As earnest academics, my husband and I take a deep and active interest in our son’s education. We are lucky enough to be able to send him to a local daycare center that has an excellent educational program, where an age-appropriate curriculum, especially for preschoolers, is carefully and expertly put into practice. In terms of ensuring that our child is not "left behind," we are certainly ahead of the game, and we are indebted to his teachers who gently point us to what he should be grasping at this age and in kindergarten.
But it’s in this department that I definitely feel like a novice. What should my son be able to accomplish at this age? Writing his name? Counting to ten, twenty, one hundred? Zipping up his jacket? Telling a story? Though we have a good idea of these issues, Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten is a great tool for parents who want a more concrete sense of what will be in store for a child in that first year, and how you can help them get there. We have been able to use the book to assess where he is already adept, and where we might need to focus a little more energy.
Let’s Get Ready is set up like a workbook, with 32 dry erase pages. It is durable, nicely illustrated, and easy to follow. A slim and portable volume, it covers a broad range of skills (recognition of letter/words, numbers, shapes, colors, monetary units; counting skills, understanding of simple narrative structure, positional words, etc). This is not a workbook where your child will focus on one skill in depth, and at first I was mildly put off by the apparently simplistic nature of how each skill was dealt with (about one page for each). To me the scope seemed too broad to be dealt with in such a slim volume. Where were the activities? The busy work? The dot-to-dots?!
But, as I began to use the book with our son, I realized that it is a book you can “dip into” and despite its apparent simplicity, it contains great “teaching moment” tips and focused, incremental activities, even while it presents material in an engaging and attractive way for kids.
In the last month, my son has become quite attached to our copy (“let’s read the kindergarten book, momma!”) and we frequently pop it open after mealtime or when he is sitting and having a snack (another reason I am glad for wipeable pages). We have been able to confirm what we already knew—that he was adept at the alphabet, could recognize letters out of order, and needed to work on his writing skills. But we’ve also learned target areas where we can focus our energies—recognizing that stories have a beginning, middle, and end; being able to count in tens, that drawing and writing skills are critically intertwined.
For my son, Let’s Get Ready is a fun little book he can play with on his own or with mommy or daddy. It's a toy. For us, it’s a useful metric or reference guide to help us understand where our son is at, and where we need to be headed. If you are headed for Kindergarten in the next year or two, then you need to get a copy! (or you can win one, if you leave a comment as to why you'd like the book over at The Parent Blogger's Network).