Two five-year-olds are about to race to the edge of the playground. When they line up, one starts 20 feet in front of the other. Who will reach the finish line first?
For some kids, this is what it is like to start kindergarten. They start school so far behind their peers, it’s hard to catch up.
Gaps in Readiness
All kids are different. Some kids will already be able to cut construction paper on a straight line. Others will still be working on just holding the scissors. Some won’t know the differences between “b” and “d,” and some will have mastered the whole alphabet. Some will be great at sharing toys, while others will need a little more convincing to give their friend a turn with the red crayon.
While some difference in capabilities is normal, there are certain literacy, numeracy, social-emotional, physical and linguistic skills and abilities that all kids need to be active participants in kindergarten. Making sure all kids have these baseline skills on day one is about equity.
Studies show that students who are black, Hispanic, Native American and from families living below the poverty line are often developmentally and academically behind their peers who are white, Asian and from affluent families.* The gap is not inherent to a child’s cultural, socioeconomic or geographical background but rather a result of years of economic, housing, cultural and other policies that have disproportionately hurt people of color and who work low- and middle-skill jobs. These policies have created a gap in opportunities to learn for the children of these families.
Why Kindergarten Readiness Matters
Kindergarten is a formative learning year. It’s when children learn the skills that will help them adapt and succeed in later years of school. If more kids had the skills and abilities they need to be successful in school when they started kindergarten, they would have a greater opportunity to achieve success in high school and beyond.
United Way and Kindergarten Readiness
United Way of Northwest Michigan works with families, early childhood educators and childcare providers to help all kids entering kindergarten start from the same spot.
By making it possible for all kindergartners to develop the skills and abilities they need in school, we help level the playing field.
*National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts on Knowledge and Skills of Young Children