- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Thanks to Bert and Ernie and a host of other televised preschool personalities, most 4-year-olds are reciting their ABCs and counting beyond 1-2-3 long before they are ready for kindergarten.
But experts warn parents that academic prowess is just one of a number of measuring sticks that should be used when evaluating whether preschoolers are ready for kindergarten.
"A lot of parents think that academic achievement is the marker of whether their child is ready for kindergarten," says Anne Counts, teacher of a preschool class for 4-year-olds at Greenwood Nursery School and Kindergarten in Hyattsville. "But academics for a 4-year-old is just gravy. The whole focus during this year is on getting the child to be autonomous so they can speak up for themselves, handle themselves and take care of themselves next year in kindergarten."
Lilian Katz, director of the ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) Elementary and Early Childhood Education Clearinghouse at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agrees that parents as well as schools need to expand their definition of school readiness. Instead of focusing on reading readiness, schools and parents should focus on the social and intellectual skills that will be needed in the new school environment, she says.
"Parents today are pressuring schools for academic programs and things like computers in the schools," Mrs. Katz says. "But those skills will come. In the long run, it's far more important to nurture less tangible intellectual skills, such as listening, observing and investigating."
She says parents can help their 4-year-olds by practicing conversation, discussion, cooperative work and play with siblings and peers.
Nursery schools usually have a checklist of skills and abilities that are needed for kindergarten success. The following are a number of questions from experts that parents should ask themselves to determine their child's readiness for kindergarten.
Can my child speak up for himself or herself when he or she needs something?
Does my child know how to negotiate a conflict to a resolution?
Is my child independent? Can he or she get dressed without help, wipe without assistance in the bathroom, pour juice, take off and put on shoes, clean up after himself or herself?
How is my child's fine-muscle control? Can he or she handle a pencil, crayon or paintbrush?
Can my child make choices without adult intervention?
Can my child wait his or her turn in a group situation, waiting for a coveted toy or a turn on the playground swings?
Does my child get along well with others? Can he or she share?
How does my child handle frustration or anger? Can my child express emotions verbally, or does he or she dissolve into tears or tantrums?
Does my child have good self-confidence, or does my child tend to get lost in a large group?
Can my child sit still and pay attention?
Is my child able to listen and follow along when a story is read or instructions are given?
Does my child handle materials in an appropriate manner?
How is my child's imagination? Can he or she tell stories or become involved in dramatic play?
Is my child curious? Does he or she ask questions?

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