Preschool and Kindergarten Readiness

Cross-posted on Fussbucket

A new study in the November/December issue of the journal Child Development, shows that preschool programs emphasizing social and academic skills do better at preparing young children for kindergarten when compared with programs that emphasize one or the other. According this article on Science Daily, researchers from Penn State University studied children in the federally-funded Head Start program.

In the study, the researchers compared the progress of students who received a traditional Head Start curriculum to those who received a curriculum with enhancements in the areas of social and emotional learning and pre-reading skills. The new program is known as the REDI (Research-Based, Developmentally Informed) Head Start program.

In recent years, education officials and researchers who study early childhood education have struggled with whether to emphasize academics in preschool programs or to instead try to advance preschoolers’ social skills, the article says. The current study marks the first attempt to develop a curriculum that addresses both concerns equally.

The REDI program emphasizes such pre-reading skills as learning the alphabet, and learning to manipulate the sounds that letters represent, the article says. Earlier research has shown that children with such skills are more successful at learning to read than are children who lack them.
The social lessons involve fictional characters, including puppet animals that are used to instruct the children in positive problem-solving behavior. The study took place at 44 Head Start centers in Central Pennsylvania. Half the centers used the REDI program enhancements, half used the traditional Head Start program without the enhancements.

When compared to children in the traditional Head Start program, children in the REDI program scored higher on several tests of emotional and social development than did children in the traditional program. This included skills in recognizing emotions in others, and responding appropriately to situations involving a conflict. Moreover, parents of children in the REDI group reported fewer instances of impulsivity, aggression and attention problems than did parents of children in the traditional program.

Children in the REDI program also scored higher than children in the traditional program on several tests of pre-reading skills: vocabulary, blending letter sounds together to form words, separating words into their component letter sounds, and in naming the letters of the alphabet.

Kindergarten readiness is actually a big deal. Studies show that kids who are not prepared for kindergarten tend to fall behind their peers in school and have a difficult time catching up.

My son attends a Montessori preschool where he is learning letters and numbers, but also a lot about how to get along with others. He will spend his kindergarten year in the same classroom, so I guess I won’t ever know if he was well-prepared for the traditional K curriculum. How have your kids done with the transition from preschool to kindergarten? Did you feel like there was a big jump in expectations on your child or was it more of a seamless transition?