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JCPS: How to make your preschooler more kindergarten-ready

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Juanita Miles Juanita Miles
Kevin Nix Kevin Nix

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Play Doh is a staple of pre-schools, Head Start and kindergarten programs all across the country. But few teachers impart lessons in motor skills and manner with as few words as Juanita Miles of the DuValle Education Center.

"I like the way you asked to use it," said Miles to one of her 4-year-old students. Wednesday.

Miles later explained, "We're looking at kids being able to go into kindergarten, not only to be able to count but it's also important for them to know 'what does the number 10 look like?'"

The stakes are high for students, teachers and administrators involved in the 74 Early Childhood Development programs within Jefferson County Public Schools. On January 30, the Kentucky Department of Education will release findings of its readiness screeners. For the first time, they evaluated all incoming kindergarten students statewide.

Last school year, those Brigance screeners determined that only slightly more than one-third, 35 percent, of Jefferson County five-year-olds were prepared properly for kindergarten. Statewide, fewer than 30 percent of pre-school age children in 109 Kentucky school districts were judged ready.

"It's about socialization, it's about social-emotional ability, it's about cognitive ability," said Kevin Nix, director of JCPS' pre-school programs.

JCPS has codified the skills needed in a pentagon graphic, posted on all of its pre-school campuses. The five skill categories are:

  • General Knowledge and Mathematics
  • Health and Physical Well-Being
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Language and Communication Development
  • Self-Help Skills

Prepared pre-schoolers, for example, should be able to feed themselves with utensils, speak in simple sentences of 5 to 6 words, work independently, attend to tasks at hand and seek help when needed.

"Not only do we teach those here, but those are skills that parents can add to at home," Miles said.

JCPS offers a number of programs to promote parental involvement. But as a public school district, it can't make such involvement mandatory.

"But we can make it much easier," Nix said. "It doesn't cost money to cultivate your child for the future."

"You may not have what we have at school to teach counting, but you can use pennies, or whatever else you have on-hand," Miles explained.

"When you're buying groceries, ask your children to point out the colors on a cereal box for you," Nix said. "It becomes a game for the child, but what we're actually doing is preparing ‘em for kindergarten."

Every week, the DuValle Education Center sends home a curriculum sheet, to tell parents what's going on, and to suggest how to reinforce those lessons at home.

"Children learn in lots of different ways," Miles said. "You may not think that they're getting something-but then you'll see that, see that they're getting it."

Nix finds reasons to take and make the time, when he arrives home from work.

"Simply taking with your child and building language is probably the greatest thing you can do," Nix said. "I've got a four-month-old child myself. His future is the most important thing on the planet."

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