Kindergarten Readiness in Comox Valley
In an article entitled “Ready or Not, Here I Come! Challenging Notions of Kindergarten Readiness in the Comox Valley” in the Winter 2015 edition of The Early Childhood Educator, Charlene Gray, Director of Professionalism for ECEBC, asks:
What exactly does it mean to be ‘ready’ for kindergarten? Does it mean that a child possesses a certain set of prescribed skills such as writing their name, counting to 20, recognizing simple words: Does it mean that they can tie their shoes, take care of their own supplies, and follow two- or three-step directions? Well, to be honest, for some it does. But what does this type of thinking mean? Does it mean that everything a child has done or learned has been to ‘ready’ them for this moment?
Five years ago the Ministry of Education was given the mandate for early learning (distinct from the MCFD mandate for childcare). In the Comox Valley, this initiated dialogue between ECEs and the school district. This group of educators all recognized the benefits of viewing children’s learning as a continuum and shared a common belief that relationships are at the core of the work they do. They made the decision to use the one-time funding made available through the Ministry to bridge the gap between early childhood programs and kindergarten classrooms and to strengthen the connections between ECE professionals and schoolteachers.
The joint working group developed a document “that, with the parents’ permission and involvement, introduces the child to the teacher and is given to them in the spring before the child begins school….this document is not a list of what the child can do, but an introduction to who the child is—what their strengths are, what are they working towards, and what is most important to know about that child. ECEs and parents wrote the introduction for the children. This past year as the project has evolved, children’s voices have been added to the document.”
The second project asked young children what they wanted to know about their new school, and spoke to school-age children to ask what they wished they had known before they came. Out of this research, the working group has produced a school-specific photo album showing “everything from the door they will go in to the bathroom stall to the big empty gymnasium”. The book, which was funded through the district’s Early Years money, is given to each child in the spring before they start Kindergarten as part of the Welcome to Kindergarten events, which the children attend at the primary school, along with their parents and ECEs.
The third component of the project was to ask parents what they would like to know about school and to ask teachers what they would like to share with parents. A pamphlet was made, incorporating this information, which is given to families in the spring before the child starts kindergarten.
The final piece of the project, an annual dinner meeting for all ECEs and teachers who wish to attend, has built connections, led to a great deal of sharing, and proven particularly significant in developing strong working relationships to help bridge children’s entry into school.
The project reports, “Parents tell us that both they and their children feel more comfortable in the school setting and they are grateful for the renewed attention being paid to who their child is. Children who are anxious about new experiences are supported long before September. Teachers tell us of the deeper connections they have with children and families right from the start. Early childhood educators have a permanent place at early years tables at both the community and school district level.”
Additional outcomes have included:
- The Welcome to Kindergarten program out of Ontario has adopted the booklets as part of their package.
- Some kindergarten teachers have visited preschool programs in the spring.
- With parents’ permission, some teachers have also contacted ECEs in September when more information is needed to support a child.