Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The start of a new school year is an exciting time for students of all ages and their families, especially for the young children who walked into kindergarten classrooms for the first time to begin their formal school journey. Even if they arrived at the schoolhouse door prepared with a backpack of new school supplies, are they really prepared to make the most of the opportunity to learn throughout their school career?
Readiness at the start of kindergarten is a significant benchmark and important predictor of children’s likelihood of success throughout their education, as is their reading readiness by third grade. Preparation at the start of school has implications far beyond the contents of backpacks.
Why, you might be asking, is a community college president concerned about the school preparedness of the youngest students in the education spectrum? Even though education issues are typically viewed at the K-12 and higher education level, I believe we need to take a step back and seriously examine the benefits that quality early learning initiatives offer for workforce development in the commonwealth.
Virginia data show that, already at kindergarten, the achievement gap is apparent and stubborn. In Roanoke, for example, one in five children arrive at kindergarten already needing intervention to be successful in learning to read. We all recognize the importance of reading at grade level by third grade, that important hinge between “learning to read” and “reading to learn.” Children who aren’t reading well by third grade may never be able to catch up to their peers who are reading proficiently. Sadly, they are three times more likely to drop out of high school, forever altering their capacity for employment and earning power.
Research indicates that the groundwork for reading proficiency occurs much earlier than the elementary years. In actuality, learning begins at birth. True school readiness is a result of the continuum of experiences that children have at home and in early learning settings as infants, toddlers and preschoolers to lay the foundation for success in elementary school and beyond.
Attentive, caring parents, along with skilled caregivers and preschool teachers, can support young children’s learning with regular chances to interact and communicate, hear a range of words, hold a book, and be read and sung to. Children can practice and gain confidence with their growing skills when they are in safe and nurturing environments, encouraged to explore and experiment, and guided in learning through everyday moments.
Access to regular preventative health care and strategic interventions when potential delays or disabilities are detected boosts a young child’s chances to be healthy and ready to learn with his or her peers.
Just as the transition from high school into higher education is a juncture that can be difficult for some students, the transition from home or child care to kindergarten can be disrupting. Facilitating a strong start for children into the school system means less remediation and grade repetition in elementary school, setting them on a path toward success in school and on to higher education and the workforce. This upward trajectory leads to outcomes that are significant for the education system, the workforce and the economic vitality of our communities.
How do we empower and support Virginia’s families to ensure that our youngest citizens have access to experiences and opportunities that support them at this earliest segment of the workforce pipeline?
Public-private investment in early childhood development initiatives like Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke is a vital down-payment on our future workforce and community prosperity. Smart Beginnings mobilizes diverse community resources and strategies into a cohesive system of family, health and education services that support children’s school readiness. Our economic prosperity will benefit from investing in our children’s school readiness from the very beginning.
To ease the transition into kindergarten for our communities’ youngsters, Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke not only forms partnerships between the child care and education communities, but also offers resources and tips to help busy parents in their critical role as their preschool child’s first teacher.
We must ensure that every child is healthy and ready to learn on the first day of kindergarten. School readiness provides a solid foundation for cohorts of students throughout the education spectrum and a stronger workforce for the future of our great commonwealth.
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