Preparing your child adequately for school is very important to his or her educational future.
School readiness describes the emotional, intellectual and social preparedness of a child to attend school, either pre or primary, and whether the child is able to make an easy and successful transition to school. Students who begin school with the appropriate foundation skills in place advance quickly. But many children find themselves starting school, only to then begin the slow process of developing school readiness. These children may be starting school on the back foot at this crucial first stage of their education and confidence-building.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
If your child has difficulties with school readiness, he or she might:
- get easily frustrated when expectations are placed upon him/her;
- struggle to follow instructions in daily activities;
- rely on parents to do self-care tasks, such as dressing;
- not be toilet trained;
- struggle to attend to tasks for the same amount of time as their peers;
- be socially immature (e.g. unable to share, unable to accept ‘rules’ of games, etc.);
- have poor receptive and/or expressive language skills;
- have difficulty understanding consequences of their behaviours;
- not be interested in looking at books and/or doing sit-down activities;
- not interact well with their peers (either in or out of the classroom);
- have limited play skills (cannot change their play to incorporate new play items or people);
- be resistant to new activities and/or being guided about how to develop new skills;
- be resistant to input from others in order to learn.
A SKILLED AND NURTURING APPROACH
At I Can Read Centres, we are skilled in ensuring your child is well-prepared for school by giving him or her the very best start. We accept children into our programmes at 3.5 years or over, dependent upon the child’s readiness to separate from the parent or carer, combined with the outcome of their entry assessment, at which the parent of carer will be present.
Although most children attend an I Can Read Centre only once or twice a week, the classroom setting prepares them for school. They quickly learn that their teacher is there to support them, listen to them, guide and instruct them, in the context of words and stories and sounds, talking and listening, vocabulary building, comprehension, and other aspects of early language and literacy.
While many people think of academic measures, such as a child’s ability to write their name, count to 10, and know their colours, as important school readiness skills, school readiness actually includes a much broader range of skills. In addition to some academic basics, school readiness skills also include self-care (independent toileting and unpacking bags), attention and concentration, physical skills (e.g. having the endurance to sit upright for periods of time), emotional regulation, fine motor skills, language skills and play and social skills.
Without these basic skills already established upon entry to school, children can very quickly find themselves playing ‘catch up’ compared to their peers who are advancing more quickly.
I Can Read Centres are unique learning environments, designed to measure and address a number of abilities associated with literacy acquisition and reading skills. Our fully qualified teachers will determine whether your child can separate from you without distress, be left with the teacher and other students, engage with other students and sit for a few minutes, naturally remaining in his or her seat.
Our teachers understand that many children are nervous about attending a ‘school-like environment’ such as an I Can Read Centre, and need to feel secure. Your child will find his or her teacher welcoming, caring and nurturing, and will soon settle into the joy of learning in our safe and supportive environment.
It’s important to understand that children love to learn! It’s also important to understand that we should never force children to learn, and it is not right to do so. I Can Read lessons are designed to be enjoyable so that the learning is fun and accessible. We support your child’s development through activities in the form of games, because learning is enhanced when your child is enjoying the process and feels emotionally safe.
During their early I Can Read lessons, your child will:
- learn to introduce self and others;
- learn to speak in front of the group;
- learn to identify pictures;
- learn to isolate the first sounds of spoken words;
- learn to take turns;
- learn to be an active listener;
- learn to ask questions and wait for answers;
- learn to predict endings to stories and answer oral comprehension questions about stories.
A grounding in phonemic awareness and phonics is essential when learning to read. If your child starts school with an awareness of the sound system of the language, he/she will progress far more easily to advanced literacy skills. Depending on their time at an I Can Read centre, many children commence primary school already reading. The primary school should then progress that child to more advanced readers and support his or her reading skills. The child has an immediate advantage.
The following is a list of attributes associated with school readiness that you may find useful and which we continually strive to develop in all of our I Can Read centres:
- Self-regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation.
- Sensory processing: Accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment as well as in one’s own body that influences attention and learning that affects how to sit, hold a pencil and listen to the teacher.
- Receptive language (understanding) and comprehension of spoken language (e.g. the teacher’s instructions, the story read in class, another child’s speech).
- Expressive language: using speech or language that can be understood by others (e.g. talking to friends and in front of the group, asking questions).
- Articulation: the ability to clearly pronounce individual sounds in words.
- Executive functioning: higher order reasoning and thinking skills (e.g. What do I need to pack to take to school?)
- Emotional development/regulation: the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and regulate emotions (for a child’s own responses to challenges).
- Social skills: determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others, to take turns and to be able to recognise and follow social norms.
- Planning and sequencing: the sequential multi-step task/activity performance to achieve a well-defined result (e.g. a phonological awareness ‘game’ as initiated by the teacher).
- Phonological awareness and phonics: this begins at an early age of 3+ years. I Can Read Centres focus on vocabulary, oral sentence structure and phonological awareness (which includes phonemic awareness, and phonics). Your child will be exposed to activities which activate their natural phonological skills, with a view to understanding that when we speak, we use words and that words are comprised of little sounds. I Can Read teachers are trained to enable students to understand this at the preschool level.
The above considerations will also help you determine the school readiness of your child, and you can contact us any time to arrange a conversation with one of our teachers for advice, or to book a free assessment. As a parent or carer, you will be present during your child’s assessment and we will discuss school readiness options in detail with you at that time. As an I Can Read customer, we will work with you
to ensure your child is supported in his or her areas of need and ensure he or she is ready to enjoy school to the full when the time comes.
WHAT YOU CAN DO AT HOME
In the lead-up to school start, you may find the following activities can be helpful to work on at home:
- Parenting expectations: increase expectations of your child around self-care tasks such as dressing, toileting, eating, and getting ready to leave the house. Try to provide only verbal rather than physical ‘help’ to complete the tasks where possible.
- Social skills: encourage your child to develop relationships with other (unfamiliar) children of a similar age, and arrange suitable ‘play dates’ for social interaction practice where the adults actively facilitate this play practice.
- Books: expose your child to books to prepare them for literacy so they learn to sit through the entirety of a book. (Do not point to text and ask your child to memorise words!)
- Early preparation: start preparing your child for school at the age of 4 by talking about expectations at school, appropriate behaviour, and regularly engaging in ‘sit down’ activities.
- Collaboration: work with your child’s preschool teacher to identify any signs of deficit or slow development so that these areas can be addressed before they start school.
- Visual strategies: use visuals (such as picture schedules) to help your child understand the routine of their day, both at home and at preschool. Transition visits are a good time to ask your child’s teacher what their schedule is likely to be, and ideally to take some relevant photos at the same time.
- Outings: prepare your child for school excursions by visiting places such as the library, the zoo, the shopping centre and helping him or her to understand appropriate behaviour in these environments. Visits to the school playground, toilet block and classroom door on the weekends
or during school holidays before commencing school may also be helpful to familiarise your child with the new setting.
- Fine motor skill development: this is an area that will be a large part of the activities undertaken at school, so developing these skills will enable your child to participate in activities more easily and willingly. This includes practising cutting out, colouring, drawing etc.