Last week I was in Asheville for Spring Break, enjoying running the beautiful mountain trails there. I met two women at a bike & outdoor shop bar one evening and we started talking. The women were on a mountain biking vacation from Canada and had left their children and husbands at home. It came up in conversation that I was a kindergarten teacher, and one of the women asked me if I could tell her the top 3 things she should be doing to prepare her 2 and 4 year old children for kindergarten. Without hesitation, I told her – read to them, play with them and talk with them.
She seemed a bit surprised. She said of course she was doing those things – but what could she do to really prepare them? And then she immediately stopped, took a step back, and said, “wait – you mean everyone doesn’t do that?”
I wish all of my children came in to kindergarten with 4 years of rich, enjoyable read aloud experiences – tons of imaginative journeys they’ve taken with forts in their living rooms, fairy houses in the backyard, castles built out of refrigerator boxes, blocks and Lego creations, cardboard arcades built, time spent running from dragons, swimming with mermaids or whatever else their imagination created for them – and hours of talk with family members who not only ask questions but stop to really listen to what their young children have to say, wonder about, dream up and talk about. But the reality is that many of our kids don’t. So that’s my job. I want kindergarten to be a time for my students to hear hundreds of amazing books read aloud, to play for hours with things that interest them and with their own imaginations and to have lots and lots of time to talk and to listen, to talk and to be listened to.
Of course there are many other things that I rank with high importance as well, but my top 3…read, play and talk. Those are the things I wish all new parents knew about and made a priority for their child’s learning and development.
And the things I wish all early childhood classrooms provided for their young learners.
What are your 3 things ?
My three things would be talk to them, not at them, take them as many places as you can, (even a trip to the grocery store can be a learning experience), and tell them stories of your life or of the life you wished you had.
I love your response and couldn’t agree more. I teach Gr. 1-2, in an impacted, heavily ELL school, and many, many of my kids arrive with little background in literacy and little experience with conversation and social experiences. We tell our parents the same thing: TALK with your children, READ with them, in your native language or English or whatever, but READ. I so wish there were a way to make this point even stronger. But what’s sad, too, is that we have such pressure on us in school to get scores up and make academic gains that it’s difficult to offer even our kinders that rich school atmosphere you describe – hours playing and talking. Too much pressure too soon !
I think I’d have to say talk with your child (a two way conversation where you share your ideas and are interested in theirs), read to them (because books can lead you to all sorts of conversations and imaginings) and, above all, show them that you love them (because starting preschool is the first time they’ll be going out into the big wide world on their own and they need to know you are still there for them and you love them, no matter what).
I think you nailed it Katie! That lack of conversation really shows – (as do the other two)
Wish we could get that message out to everyone, the ones who don’t and the ones who think their kids HAVE to come to kindergarten reading, writing and multiplying to get ahead.