Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood

ReadingSchool Readiness

The Parents' Role

The earliest roots of readiness come from parents’ responsiveness to their children and encouragement of their children’s curiosity and motivation and from children’s exploration of imagination and problem solving through pretend play.

School readiness involves a variety of capacities, a positive self-esteem, and motivation. Parents can encourage their children to participate in activities that will help them enjoy learning and be ready to acquire academic skills. Parents can also help their children get ready for school by reading to them in a warm, nurturing context.

Questions to Ask

  • How is child care or preschool going for your child?
  • How often do you read to your child? How do you include him in reading books?
  • How is he learning and getting ready for school?
  • Describe his typical play.
  • What do you think he understands? (names of objects, concepts, instructions, fantasy vs. reality)

Provider Tips

  • Encourage families to expose their child to a variety of situations and opportunities for learning so that his talents can become evident.
  • Emphasize the importance of reading to their and discussing what they have read.
  • Recommend books on relevant family issues or child difficulties (a new baby coming, a grandparent dying). Consider making such resources available in the office or providing a computer in the waiting room where parents can search for such resources.
  • Discuss the concept of “multiple intelligences” with parents.
  • Using the guidance listed below, discuss the importance of parents in their child’s learning and readiness for school.

Guidance for Parents

  • Visit preschools and childcare centers before enrolling your child. An emotionally supportive preschool or child care program encourages pretend play and helps foster school readiness. If your child is shy, try to arrange play dates for him with potential classmates before preschool or child care begins to help him feel comfortable with them and adapt more easily to the new setting.
  • If your child is not in preschool or child care, consider enrolling him in some type of structured learning situation—Head Start, Sunday school, or a community program—to help him get ready to enter school.
  • Much learning takes place during playtimes. Play increases your child’s ability to think in different ways, to use his imagination, to pretend, and to be creative. During play periods, he gathers items, sorts them by shapes, color, and size. He groups things that are alike and different. Through play he learns to name objects and activities. Try to give your child as many opportunities as possible to play with you, his siblings, and other children.
  • Skills such as storytelling, writing, and reading begin to develop while your child is playing “pretend.” At first the play focuses on action and objects, but as your child gets older, he uses his ideas, imagination, and language more and more. Provide opportunities for him to play pretend at home and advocate for pretend play in his preschool or child care.
  • Take your child to the library often and let him choose books that interest him. When you read together, ask him questions about the stories or pictures and let him tell part of the story.
  • You can make learning fun by focusing on areas that have already attracted your child’s interest and attention:
    • Practice reading signs everywhere—at fast food restaurants, in the supermarket, around town, along the highway
    • Count the days until his birthday or holidays
    • Point out letters, especially the one that begins his name - “It's a T like in Tommy!
    • Show him that words are made up of sounds that match up with letters
    • Play with sounds by making rhymes of real and nonsense words
    • Go on trips and visit parks, museums, and other places of interest
  • Children with learning problems are better able to cope with frustrations if they experience success in one aspect of learning or in an area of interest outside school. Help your child to develop his possible talents like music, athletics, creativity, or visual and spatial abilities.
Resources for Providers and Families

For Providers

School Readiness PDF

Reach Out and Read Information appears in a pop up window

Reach Out and Read is a national pediatric literacy promotion program, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that encourages primary care providers to offer parents advice about reading to infants and children.

Primary care providers are trained to provide developmentally appropriate guidance to parents about books and reading aloud and are encouraged to give a developmentally appropriate book to each child at each well-child visit.

In addition, providers are encouraged to have volunteers read aloud to children in the waiting room.

Assistance in starting a Reach Out and Read program is available from Reach Out and Read, 29 Mystic Avenue, Somerville, MA 02145, or on the website.

Bright Futures Case Studies for Primary Care Clinicians: School Readiness: Jesse and the School Quandary: Ready, Set, Go?

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Tenth Anniversary Edition, 1993. Gardner H. New York, NY: Basic Books

For Families

Helping Your Preschool Child PDF

Reading Tips for Parents PDF

Preparing Your Child for School PDF

Stimulating Environments PDF

Safe, Quality Child Care PDF

Elovson AC. 1993. The Kindergarten Survival Handbook: The Before School Checklist and a Guide for Parents. Santa Monica, CA: Parent Education Resources.

Karnofsky F, Weiss T. 1993. How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten. Carthage, IL: Fearon Teacher Aids.


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