Vivian Franz, Ph.D.
In the weeks ahead, many families will be thinking of readiness for kindergarten, as a five-year-old boy or girl looks forward to fall. School will be the beginning of formal education, following a long period of informal education at home. In the best of circumstances, the at-home experiences have prepared the child well.
The growing child has learned to listen and to speak within the family setting. He will bring with him to school his listening and speaking skills, his knowledge of the language. They are the base upon which he will learn to read and, with time, to write. Kindergarten is a critical step toward these latter stages in his education.
The developing child listens, speaks, reads, and writes. Though the processes interact, one precedes the other and is necessary to the other. Educators use terms such as language arts, or whole language, or communicative processes, meaning that all these abilities work together. As the child tries to make himself understood, as he tries to understand the people and the world about him, he expresses himself through language.
The child from a loving family has learned to respond openly to whatever he hears, sees, or feels. He has found he can remember things that have happened and relate them to what he does or will do. He senses already the great capacity of the human mind to hold visual, auditory, or tactile images or memories. He will use these memories capably in the days to come.
There is a saying: Richer than I you can never be, for I had a mother who read to me.
Rich indeed is the child who comes to school from a home where there are readers, where there is an abundance of thoughtful exchange of ideas. Rich is the child who feels free to ask questions, and who lives with people who delight in trying to answer them. Such a child enters kindergarten ready and eager to learn.
We learn so that we can live well. That is the purpose of our learning, no matter the age. Not so that we can get good grades, though this is a rewarding outcome. Not so that we can go to a particular college, but essentially so that no matter what life asks of us, we can respond creatively, and so that we have the skills necessary to live in a constantly changing environment. Being competent, we can cope well with whatever lies ahead, to our benefit and to the benefit of others.
The child who comes to understand this will know the excitement and the security of learning. "All other things being equal," school will be the opportunity it is meant to be.