Jump-start learning this summer vacation with your pre-schooler

June 27, 2013 | Posted in: Early Learners

The early years of school, whether you’re sending your child for the first time or watching him or her advance to kindergarten, are golden opportunities for parents to nurture in a child a love for learning, the cornerstone of school success. Parent Today wants to encourage and equip you. Our Parent Today Seeds of Learning summer calendar will take you right through the first month of school with a summer full of enriching activities to help you help your child prepare to succeed in school.

Pre-kindergarten is a great start to your child’s education – but what can parents do to give their little student a pre-pre-school jump-start this summer? The same thing you’ve been doing since they were small – read to them.

“Reading with your child every night builds their vocabulary and speaking and listening skills,” said Jordan-Elbridge Elementary Principal Ellen Leuthauser. Before becoming a principal in the small district just west of Syracuse, Leuthauser was a reading and literacy expert.

“After reading, talk about the story. It is very important for children to understand the story and to notice what the author and illustrator have done,” Leuthauser said.

But what books are best? If a book is too hard, it might frustrate your little one. Too easy and they might give up, too.

Luckily there’s help. Reading experts suggest seeking out your local librarian to help build a summer reading list for your tot; or get in touch with your elementary school librarian for suggestions.

If your school has closed for the summer or if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, the worldwide web is your oyster.

One resource teachers use is TeachersFirst.com, a non-profit organization that provide lesson plans and book lists for educators. For pre-k students TeachersFirst.com pointed Parent Today to a reading list compiled by TeachersandFamilies.com.

The extensive list weighs heavily on books that teach the A-B-Cs in creative ways (“ABCDiscovery” by Izhar Cohen); address big life-changes (“A Big Bed for Jed” by Laurie Friedman); virtues such as patience (“Apple Batter” by Deborah Turney Zagwyn); and special interest books about boats, butterflies, mysteries – things your child might be particularly interested in.

Still not sure what’s right for your son or daughter? NPR’s daytime radio program “Tell Me More” recently hosted a group of mom-experts who gave great advice about getting kids excited about reading, summer reading and school-age children.

What will my son or daughter learn in pre-kindergarten? How can I get them ready?

If this is your first child, things have changed since you were a student. New York is one of the 45 states that recently adopted the Common Core Learning Standards, a sweeping change to how children are educated. It’s a BIG change full of tiny nooks and crannies that can make any anxious mommy’s (and daddy’s) head spin.

The overall goal, however, is to slow things down and make sure kids master one skill before introducing the other. New York state has built the website EngageNY.org to help teachers and parents learn about the Common Core. The list of skills a pre-kindergarten class will learn is extensive and amazing, given the fact that most pre-k classes are half-day sessions. Still, don’t worry, many of these skills your student will likely bring with them. For example, who hasn’t used a banana to express the idea of a telephone?

As far as reading, there are plenty of skills you can start working on now. For instance, pre-k students will work throughout the year on learning how to retell stories; be able to ask about and answer details about familiar stories; and be able to participate in group reading activities with interest and purpose. A non-fiction children’s book – say about farm animals – might be a good read. The new standards want students to learn how to read and interpret informational texts, too.

The reasoning is that everyone, from a PhD candidate to car mechanic, needs to be able to glean complex information from texts and manuals. That skill is now being taught from the very start, and your pre-k student will spend about half their time reading non-fiction texts.

Is your head spinning yet? If all of this is overwhelming, remember a school career is long, your child is just starting, and when the school bell rings you’ll have a guide, your child’s teacher. Early childhood education encourages learning through play – and pre-k teachers are good at keeping learning fun.

Regarding this summer, Jordan-Elbridge’s Leuthauser has a second recommendation for parents who want to get their son or daughter ready for school:

“Writing is just as important as reading. The writing may not look the same as yours and mine, but it is essential for success that they have an opportunity to write. Providing children with ample exposure to reading and writing boosts their confidence, and that is the greatest gift you can give a child,” she said.

Daniel Bader is a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service. He is an award-winning author of the column “First-time Daddy” published bi-weekly in the Observer-Dispatch newspaper in Utica, N.Y. Prior to joining the Communications Service, Daniel earned an Associated Press award as an education beat reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. He received citations from the City Council of New York for his education reporting the Manhattan Times in Northern Manhattan. He lives between Utica and Syracuse with his wife, Kendall and his son, Hudson, the energy-packed inspirations for his column.

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