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Parents can help their children acquire skills for kindergarten

July 13, 2007

A Maryland report that showed that 35 percent of the Washington County students who entered kindergarten last year did not meet "readiness standards" is cause for concern.

Not only do such children need extra attention from teachers, but because of the multitude of things experts say they should know at that age, some might never catch up.

Pre-school programs can help, but it's really up to parents to make sure that their children have the skills they need to succeed.

The report that the Washington County school system released recently was the Maryland Model for School Readiness Assessment. It contained the following facts:

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· Local students were judged best in terms of their physical development, worst in scientific thinking.

· Female students entering kindergarten were 13 percent more proficient than males.

· Students who had attended a private nursery school program were most proficient - 80 percent - while only 53 percent of those who attended Head Start programs were proficient.

So what can parents do?

Dr. Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist, told MSNBC last summer that by the time they are ready to enroll in kindergarten, children should show an interest in books, which parents can encourage by reading to them.

Peters said youngsters should also recognize some uppercase letters, particularly those in their names.

By kindergarten, Peters said, children should also know their primary colors and be able to distinguish the basic shapes, including circle, square, triangle, rectangle and diamond.

They should also be able to color with crayons, although Peters said at this age, a child need not always stay within the lines.

Social skills are important, too, Peters said. Kindergarten students should be able to sit still during a lesson, keep their hands to themselves and respond to the teacher with an "inside voice" as opposed to shouting out.

Her Web site is at www.ruthpeters.com.

Another resource for parents is Success By Six, a program developed by United Way of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Ky. (www.uwbg.org/successbysix/ready/preparing).

This program recommends that by kindergarten-enrollment time, a child should be able to recite his or her own address and phone number and recognize his or her name in print.

They should also be able to communicate their thoughts and needs in a way that adults can understand and work and play cooperatively with other students.

Studies gathered by the Education Resources Information Center of the U.S. Department of Education indicate that a child's mental development can be enhanced with language-stimulation programs that parents can begin as early as 6 weeks.

While some might have difficulty believing that a child of that age can benefit from being read to or spoken to, scientific research shows that those who get such stimulation thrive, while those left alone in cribs or playpens for long periods of time don't.

Reading to a child isn't rocket science, but it could help make your student a star in kindergarten.

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