Special moments helping kids at home really do benefit them in school

October 08, 2007|By Ruth Anne Callaham

Editor's note: Once a month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by School Board member Ruth Anne Callaham.

Old wives have so many tales. One of which is that if you hear it three times it's true.

Not particularly an old tale is the concept of children that begin school ready to learn have a higher level of success. You heard or read it three times in less than a week in The Herald-Mail.

On July 12, we read that Ready to Learn is the measure of a student's abilities that include but are not limited to language, math and science thinking, and social skills. Such skills are developed at home, in child care or prekindergarten. A Local Viewpoint (opinion column) followed telling us that "parents can help their children acquire skills for kindergarten." The third telling was in an editorial opinion noting a concern in getting parents more involved in what is going on in the schools.


So it must be true; folks working at home to help children develop the skills they need in school really is a good thing.

In this high-activity, action- packed society in which we live, how do we ensure the children we love are ready to learn? Gwen Pangborn, an experienced kindergarten teacher and our 2007 Washington County Teacher of the Year, suggests activities such as reading together, playing games, practicing the alphabet and putting together puzzles. Work to ensure children have opportunities to learn fundamental concepts such as perseverance, reflective thinking, conflict resolution, responsibility and fairness. Pangborn also notes that strengthening the relationships between schools, parents, child-care providers and early-childhood programs is vital in providing the academic, emotional, social and physical development so important to the success of our youngest students.

As a mom, I often felt that guilt was the gift that kept on giving. The truth is that knowledge is by far the greater gift. Children who have an opportunity to start pre-school and kindergarten on a level playing field with all other children feel better about school and themselves.

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found pre-K programs have the potential for significant savings in government spending on educational remediation. The more time we invest getting our children ready to learn, the more we are helping them build a foundation of positive experiences that will carry them through middle school and high school. We will be helping them avoid the problems that often lead to dropping out. Students who complete high school have greater employability and are less likely to need government social services.

It really is true, children that begin school ready to learn have a higher level of success. Resources to help children start kindergarten ready to succeed are available at the Ready At Five Web site - The site offers ideas to put together a School Readiness Activity Box. These seven activity boxes, with more than 35 hands-on activities, will help you make learning fun. Just click on Activities then Activity Boxes. You may also call your child's principal for more information.

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