That news appeared recently here in Louisville, Ky. However, that very percentage has been used this year to describe lack of school-preparedness in children across the United States.
My first reaction was one that calls for some actual investigative journalism to answer the question of why Kindergarten classes, by and large, are not ready for half the students parents send to them.
Kids Not Ready certainly doesn’t mean that half of our kids are not ready to learn. Use of that phrase betrays a fundamental ignorance about the breathtaking learning power of children ages birth through 5. Not Ready just means, that for their own purposes, schools are eager that children have a bit of a jump on the ever more advanced curricular goals of Kindergarten: academic growth in the fundamentals of formal education of literacy, mathematics and the arts. These days, that job falls largely to parents. Are they ready for that job? I don’t think anybody checked.
While parenting is the most important job anyone can have, the nearly ubiquitous Common Core State Standards have focused schools only on preparing kids for success in college OR in career. This evidently leaves fully half of young parents unaware of the hazards to their children of heading for Kindergarten unprepared for the schooling now being offered, ensuring failure starting on day one.
Young parents can actually provide all of the stimulation that children need for success in Kindergarten…if they know what to do. School readiness results from socially and cognitively stimulating experiences like reading and discussing picture books together and interactions about the world outside of home, like in grocery stores, retail shops, libraries, playgrounds, museums, galleries, historic sites and parks. These largely free learning contexts offer abundant opportunities for conversation to for planful parents to playfully and casually develop concepts deemed critical to school readiness.
The parents of th0se predicted to be un-ready 50 percent are either unaware of these parental duties, or their life circumstances (e.g., working several jobs to keep food on the table) preclude them from engaging in such enriching kind of parenting. They are too drained by life to focus upon the fact that the schools have evidently become unconcerned about being unprepared to comfortably educate all of our youngest kids well.
Reasonable people could argue (and have) that all children are everyone’s responsibility. I’m talking about grandparents, family, friends and neighbors who might step up to help out beleaguered moms and dads, or to assist the more financially comfortable couples that just need some gentle coaching.
Our intermittent interaction opportunities with such less fortunate children have us operating only on an ad hoc basis, stepping up when we can to help youngsters in hopes they will arrive home joyfully from their very first days of school.
A worst choice role would be playing 19th century schoolmarm—drilling children with meaningless (to the kids) color, shape, number, letter or sight word flash cards. Young children are most compelled by smiling invitations and conversations about hand-held objects, shared picture books, their own chosen activities, and novel encounters with people, places and things. So, we outliers might best show up with a book and invite little ones to engage with us. Offering relaxed conversation framed around open ended questions, together we can experience books and use that to process the rest of the world. Into such one-on-one interactions we can gently and authentically weave all of the school readiness check-off items that tired moms and dads just don’t have the time, knowledge or attention to offer.
As a bonus, we lucky folks get to enter the magical worlds of delightful children who happily don’t know about our efforts to gently divert them from hitting what can be a brick wall surrounding the increasingly misnamed Child’s Garden for learning.