Academic journal article The California School Psychologist

Bridging the Transition to Kindergarten: School Readiness Case Studies from California's First 5 Initiative

Academic journal article The California School Psychologist

Bridging the Transition to Kindergarten: School Readiness Case Studies from California's First 5 Initiative

Article excerpt

Recent advances in science have underscored how critical children's first five years of life are to their later success in school and life. It has also been recently recognized that early childhood interventions, particularly those that combine child-focused educational activities with parent-child relationship building, can positively influence children's readiness for school, particularly for those at-risk for poor developmental outcomes. Though early childhood services have traditionally received fewer resources than those for school-aged children or adults, many states have tried to address this inequity by sponsoring early childhood initiatives aimed at providing comprehensive health and social services to children ages O to 5 and their families. The current article presents an overview of one such initiative-California's First 5-and provides three Southern California case studies of how it is being implemented at the county level. Implications for policy makers, school psychologists, and other educational stakeholders are discussed.

Importance of Early Childhood Development

It has long been widely accepted that children's early development and experiences-prenatally through age 5-contribute greatly to their chances to succeed in elementary school and in later life. It has only been in recent years, however, that the scientific, professional, political, and public communities have come together to make early childhood development a fundamental priority. In their comprehensive review of the literature-Neurons to Neighborhoods-the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (NRCIM, 2000) summarized the critical importance of early childhood development with some of the following conclusions:

1. From birth to age of five is the period of the most rapid growth in children's linguistic, cognitive, emotional, social, regulatory, and moral abilities, and it is during this time that the foundation for future development is laid.

2. While development in the early years is extremely robust, it is also quite vulnerable and can be seriously compromised by emotional trauma, such as loss and early personal rejection; and environmental threats, such as poor nutrition, specific infections, environmental toxins, drug exposure, and chronic stress due to abuse or neglect.

3. Wide differences in children's abilities, noticeable well before kindergarten, are associated with multiple risk factors, as well as disparities in social and economic circumstances, and are predictive of later academic performance.

4. Children's relationships to their parents and other caregivers, including those outside the home, play a critical role in strengthening nearly every aspect of their development by providing stable, nurturing, and secure attachments upon which exploration, learning, and self-regulation are based.

Given these conclusions, the importance of childhood development to early school success cannot be underestimated.

The NRCIM report (2000) also found that early childhood interventions, particularly those that combine child-focused educational activities with parent-child relationship building, positively affect children's developmental trajectories. For example, numerous studies have shown that well-designed, child-focused early interventions lead to immediate improvements in standardized test scores, particularly on measures of intelligence (NRCIM, 2000). In addition, children who attend high-quality preschool programs or early child care centers are more cognitively advanced (by at least two months) than similar children who did not attend programs, a trend that seems particularly strong for children from disadvantaged families (Bridges, Fuller, Rumberger, & Tran, 2004). Family-focused intervention programs directed at parent and caregiver education have also been shown to have strong, positive influences on child growth and school readiness (Zigler, Finn-Stevenson, & Hall, 2002). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.