Preparing young students for kindergarten success

A young child looks through a small telescope.

Preparing young students for kindergarten success

By Colleen Bradley, Communications Intern

More than half of the children in Ohio enter kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed, according to a study done by College of Education and Human Ecology Distinguished Professor Laura Justice. This inspired the creation of the Summer Success program, which helps to supply children with the proper tools to be prepared as they enter school.

Being underprepared not only negatively affects children's performances in kindergarten, but also causes future problems. A lack of readiness could eventually lead to poor performances later on in school, drug use, incarceration, and mental health issues, which is why it is so important to catch this issue early on.

For four weeks, preschoolers attend the Summer Success program from 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They participate in circle time, which teaches them how to sit in a group, raise hands, and take turns. They have academic-focused time, teaching them rhyming and counting. Lunch time provides for the practice of social and conversational skills, as well as practicing manners.

Many of these children come from high-risk backgrounds and have experienced poverty, homelessness, or even intergenerational homelessness. For example, if a mother cannot read, then they will not read to their child, and "reading to your child every night is crucial to getting them ready for kindergarten," says Kari Welch, program manager and literacy technician at the Schoenbaum Family Center. The lack of development at home leads to a lack of readiness for kindergarten.

Furthermore, developing motor and movement skills is also essential to kindergarten preparedness. "People think children naturally know how to kick, throw, or catch a ball, but the data show that this is not true," says Ruri Famelia, post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Educational Studies. "Which is why we take them through the stages of each skill so they can truly understand the fundamentals and perform well in kindergarten."

Famelia explains how the data show that the program truly is having a positive impact on the children. Comparing the assessments of language and literacy, math, social relations, and motor skills development at the beginning and end of the program, she sees a "significant improvement in all of the skills." Families will also personally come back and tell Welch how they see the growth in their children.

Past and present partnerships between Ohio State, the City of Columbus, and community partners such as the PNC Grow Up Great Foundation and the Columbus Metropolitan Library has allowed the program to continue and expand its work. The funding from their partners permits the continuation of field trips and gym classes, both crucial to kindergarten readiness, as well as hiring a lead teacher.

Welch and Famelia hope that the program becomes accessible to everyone. They would like to see different community centers and libraries even outside of Columbus implement the program. By encouraging working on and engaging with this issue, more and more children will enter kindergarten ready and prepared, giving them hope for brighter futures.