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1 Text Only Version for Online Professional Development Course; Slight modifications have been made to the text since this version is not an online interactive medium. Supporting a Child s Readiness for School How Can Schools Involve Family and Community Members in Supporting a Child s Readiness for School? This Module is designed to - Share research-based strategies for helping children transition into the early grades - Help every child develop a strong foundation for later academic success This module should be used by - School staff - Professional development specialists - Parent volunteers - Community volunteers who currently work with programs to provide support to children who are transitioning to school in the early grades. When you have completed this module, you will have - A printable record of notes you have written - Strategies to share your ideas with others and to assist you in fostering support for children as they transition from home to school As you work through this module, you will have an opportunity to record responses and make lists. Your responses will automatically be recorded on the Worksheet. Anytime you are in the module, you may click on the Worksheet hotlink in the top navigation bar to view this sheet. In this module, you will - Explore the impact that readiness activities can have on a child s education - Learn about activities and strategies that are commonly found in successful readiness programs Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 1

2 The Interactive Learning Model Project This interactive module is the third in the series developed by SEDL s National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools (The National Center). In Module 1, What Do We Mean by Family & Community Connections With Schools?, you learned about - Types of family & community connections with schools - Possible benefits from these connections - Suggested strategies to explore your school s connections In Module 2, What Structures Can Help Schools Create Effective Family and Community Involvement That Supports Learning Outside of School?, you learned about the - Concept of learning outside of school - Characteristics and actions that are common in schools that have successfully implemented learning outside-of-school programs or efforts If you have not completed the first two modules, you may want to complete one or both of those modules after you have finished this one. Defining Child Readiness How would you define child readiness? Is it helping children learn to read and write before they enter school? Is it helping children learn to socialize with other children? Is it helping children learn specific skills, like tying their shoes or using a fork? Take a moment to consider your experiences with preparing your own children for school or the children of others. Use the box below to describe these efforts. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 2

3 How Does Current Research Define Child Readiness? In reality, addressing a child s readiness is a much more complex process than we typically consider. The National Center s latest synthesis, Readiness: School, Family, & Community Connections defines efforts to address child readiness as supporting a child s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development by involving children, families, community organizations, and school staff in interactive processes and collaborative relationships that address a child s developmental needs. RESEARCH In this module, the statements about child readiness and family and community involvement are derived from the findings and recommendations presented in the 2004 synthesis, Readiness: School, Family, & Community Connections. The studies included in this synthesis represent many types and styles of research, including randomized control trials, comparative studies, case studies, correlational studies, and others. While randomized control trials provide empirical evidence on the effectiveness of various interventions, the descriptive studies help contextualize these efforts. For detailed descriptions of the studies and their research, visit the syntheses Web page at and review the study descriptions. Does this match your experiences? As you progress through this module, you will learn more about child readiness from both the school s and the families perspectives. The National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools The National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools has summarized current educational research on efforts and outcomes of family and community connections with schools. Read our detailed syntheses of the research by going to the syntheses Web page. You may also obtain electronic copies at that location (http://www.sedl.org/connections/). Emerging Issues in School, Family, & Community Connections A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement Diversity: School, Family, & Community Connections Readiness: School, Family & Community Connections Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 3

4 Myth or Reality? To investigate readiness more deeply, let s begin by exploring a few common assumptions about child readiness. Each of the following statements is either a myth or a reality about the impact of child readiness on school success. For each statement, Check the Myth? box if you think the statement is a myth and then read the explanation below your choice. Check the Reality? box if you think the statement is a reality and then read the explanation below your choice. Economic status has the most significant impact on a child s readiness for school. Myth? Reality? You are right economic status is not the greatest impact. In reality, the greatest single impact is a mother s support and expectation for her children s success in school. While economic status can have a great impact on student performance in the early grades, it is actually the mother who has the greatest impact on a child s future school success. For example, children who are raised with the belief and corresponding expectation that they will do well in school are commonly more successful academically than children who have been raised with little belief of success and no expectation that they should or can do well. For example, children who are raised with the belief and expectation that they will do well in school, are commonly more successful academically than children who have been raised with little belief of success and no expectation that they should and can do well. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 4

5 Children need to enter kindergarten with basic literacy skills that can support ready recognition of letters or words in order to be academically successful as they move through the early grades. Myth? Reality? You are right; while many successful children have reading skills when they enter kindergarten, it is not just an ability to read words or sounds that is important. It is a child s readiness to talk about what happens in a story or what a section of text means that makes the most significant difference. It is true that many successful readers begin reading at an early age. However, it is not just an ability to read words or sounds that is important. It is a child s readiness to talk about what happens in a story or what a section of text means that makes the most significant difference. For example, children with a welldeveloped vocabulary can more readily communicate their understanding and comprehension of the text than a child with a limited vocabulary. In fact, children who have a larger vocabulary are generally more successful readers than children with small vocabularies. Typically, children with larger vocabularies have been read to more often and have regular conversations with adults. Children with a well-developed vocabulary can more readily communicate their understanding and comprehension of the text than children with a limited vocabulary. For example, children who have a larger vocabulary are generally more successful readers than children with small vocabularies. Typically, children with larger vocabularies have been read to more often and have regular conversations with adults. Lack of readiness can be quickly addressed through rigorous instruction and curriculum. Myth? Reality? You are right While rigorous instruction and curriculum can have a significant impact on student performance, it also may not be effective enough in the long term if children start public school too far behind. That is why preschool interventions are so important. If needed interventions do not occur at the preschool level, some children may never catch up. For example, children who fall behind more than 2 academic years are unlikely to catch up to their peers. That is why it is so important to address student needs as early as possible. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. When students begin the school year significantly behind academically, they tend to continue to fall behind each year rather than catch up. Each year their lack of progress multiplies until finally they fall so far behind that they have almost no chance of catching up. For example, children who fall behind more than 2 academic years are unlikely to catch up to their peers. That is why it is so important to address student needs as early as possible. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 5

6 Importance of Child Readiness These myth and reality statements demonstrate the importance of child readiness. When children are not prepared for entry into school, they can fall into a cycle of low achievement that can continue to follow them as they move through the upper grades. Moreover, analysis of early childhood programs has determined that when a child has been given the needed physical, cognitive, and social-emotional support for school preparation, the child is more likely to be ready for school. The positive outcome of these efforts applies not only to the child s academic performance in the elementary grades, but also to performance throughout the child s school experience. What can educators do to provide the support that children need as they transition to school? Contextual Factors Since the 1960s, educators have known that certain contextual factors make some students more likely to be ready for school, while other factors create barriers to later academic success. What are these contextual factors that are consistently associated with a child s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional readiness for school? ➊ Socio-economic status ➋ Health ➌ Family background, particularly mother s education, single-parent status, and mental health ➍ Home and community environment, including factors such as language spoken at home or family members education ➎ Participation in some type of preschool program Why should you involve students families and community members and organizations in addressing a child s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional preparation for school? When school staff reach out to families, community organizations, and support agencies to address these factors related to readiness, the result can be a multi-layered structure that addresses children s needs and supports children s transition into school and from grade level to grade level. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 6

7 Types of Support for Child Readiness As schools seek to address contextual factors that are consistently related to readiness for school, there are four types of support they can initiate. Nurture and support children s health, safety, security, and emotional wellbeing. Support learning and motivation to learn. Negotiate and oversee children s access to neighbors, friends, and the broader community. Seek out and advocate for services and opportunities for students. How can schools implement strategies that foster these four types of support? Nurture and Support Children s Health, Safety, Security, and Emotional Well-being Because each of these factors is so closely associated with the home environment, the school, and community agency staffs often hesitate to link school resources to efforts to support children in these areas. However, children who haven t had their basic needs met are unlikely to do as well in school as children who have. When schools proactively engage families and community organizations in addressing these issues, the needs of all children can be met. To address these needs, schools need to partner with service organizations and other support agencies to see that every child and every family receives needed support. Negotiate and Oversee Children s Access to Neighbors, Friends, and the Broader Community When schools facilitate family access and interaction with local organizations and resources that support student needs, children reap the benefits. These efforts can support families as they prepare children to transition from the home to the neighborhood, the school, and the wider community. Family support makes children much more able to successfully adjust to and function in their growing environment. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 7

8 Support Learning and Motivation to Learn Although schools generally assume they alone have the role of providing these services, it is when schools engage family members and community organizations and agencies in these efforts that students see the greatest benefit. When families and community organizations foster activities to support learning, children are more likely to be successful in school. To promote more academic support, strategies need to help families adopt practices to Establish an at-home learning environment for the whole family Express high expectations and encourage learning Provide opportunities for learning and development Read and tell stories Practice and transmit cultural traditions Seek Out and Advocate for Service and Opportunities for Students Although schools can provide access to families to an array of community-based services and opportunities, it is the energy that families create as they take an active role in advocating for their children that brings the greatest benefit to students. As school staff broker connections to these programs, they help families promote high expectations for what their children can do and meet the needs of their children. Developing Ideas So what can you do? Take a few moments to think about actions you or others in your community have taken to address child readiness. Do they align with any of the actions described in the previous frames? Consider your school community. In the following text box, record your ideas on providing additional support for child readiness by increasing family and community involvement efforts. As you continue, we will begin to look at how you can accomplish your goals. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 8

9 Nurture and Support Children s Health, Safety, Security, and Emotional Well-being What can you do to support child readiness? Provide training to elementary teachers to help them develop school-family-community interventions that address child readiness. For example, conduct special workshops to engage teachers in exploring and roleplaying how to involve families and community organizations or agencies in supporting students early acquisition of reading or math skills. It is often assumed that teachers know how to engage non-educators in these efforts. However, current research has shown this is not the case. When staff are taught practical strategies to involve others in the process of preparing children for school, it may result in increased support for student learning. Negotiate and Oversee Children s Access to Neighbors, Friends, and the Broader Community What can you do to support child readiness? Coordinate with local organizations and families to ensure that every child has access to learning resources and early life educational experiences. For example, coordinate with a local service organization and create take-home project bags that help children transition to formal learning. These bags might include activities that focus on basic skills needed at the preschool level, such as color recognition, sequencing, or following directions. These take-home bags should contain all the resources, tools, and directions the family will need to complete the project. A reading bag might contain several books and a set of activities that engage family members in discussing the book with children. However, don t assume that families will know what to do with these bags. Be sure to offer workshops to help families prepare to use these activities with their children. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 9

10 Support Learning and Motivation to Learn What can you do to support child readiness? Work with school outreach programs, public libraries, and community service organizations to provide families with access to learning opportunities in the community. For example, partner with local museums, libraries, or bookstores to offer activity sessions to preschool children on a weekly basis. Encourage these groups to consider when families are able to bring their children to participate. If the events are offered at a time that is inconvenient to families, they won t be able to attend. Also encourage family members to play an active role in these efforts. Avoid the practice of doing it to the parents and adopt a policy of doing it with the parents. Seek out and Advocate for Services and Opportunities for Students What can you do to support child readiness? Develop a communication network using both formal and informal channels to share information on school schedules, upcoming events, curriculum news, volunteer requests, or other school outreach efforts as well as to invite families and community members to become involved in supporting a child s readiness. For example, enlist the help of a volunteer to organize a community-wide cadre of volunteers to form a communication network. This network can be used to invite children s families to attend workshops that will help them prepare their children not only for the first day of school, but also for events throughout the school year. Communication is too important to leave to chance. The more actively communication strategies are supported, the more likely they will bear fruit. If your school does not have funds to pay for a coordinator, enlist a person or a local organization to help foster interaction among schools, families, community members, and community organizations. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 10

11 Developing Ideas Take a moment to consider each of the four types of support. Before you continue, take a moment to review what you have recorded earlier on this sheet. As you have worked through this module, you have gained new experiences and knowledge about how schools can support child readiness by increasing family and community involvement. With this experience and knowledge in mind, would you like to change any of the ideas you recorded earlier? In the box below, record why you would or would not change those responses. Where to Begin Keeping what you have written in mind, choose one type of support you feel would be a good match to the needs of your school community and the ideas you have recorded on your Worksheet. In the box below, describe what you d like to do and why you have chosen this type of support as your first step. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 11

12 Who to Involve Now that you know what you would like to do and why it is important, consider who needs to be involved in further planning. Who are the best resources to involve in this effort? In the box below, record either the names and positions of individuals or the names of roles or representative members who need to be involved in this effort and what contributions you think they can make to the effort. In this second box, record resources, in addition to the people you have just listed, that are needed for this effort. Next Steps With the information you have recorded, you have taken a first step in Determining your needs and what kind of effort you d like to see begun in your school community Deciding who should be involved However, there is much more to be done. Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 12

13 You can 1. Share a printout of the Worksheet you created while going through this module in order to talk informally about your ideas with others who are interested in addressing child readiness issues in your school community. 2. Invite others who are interested in this topic to access the National Center s Web site in order for them to create their own Worksheet. Then share all the Worksheets and collaboratively create a single Worksheet. 3. Meet with others in a school computer lab and work through this module as a group. 4. Take your Worksheet to the local parent organization and share your ideas on these efforts. This sharing could be the beginning of redefining or reviewing existing efforts. 5. Create a work group made up of school staff, family members, students, partner organizations, community organizations, and other groups and use this module as a starting point for focus group discussion on what needs to be done in your school community to promote family and community involvement in supporting a child s readiness for school. 6. Access more information by downloading other research-based documents at no cost at This course was brought to you by The National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools Located at Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 211 E. 7 th St., Suite 400 Austin, TX Phone: Web: Copyright 2005 Southwest Educational Development Laboratory 13

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