Help your child hit the ground running in kindergarten

School starts for most Kingman students on July 30, and while most children think of summer as a break from learning, First Things First reminds us that for kids entering kindergarten, summer is the ideal time to instill the skills that will make the transition to school smoother.

The Kingman Daily Miner is partnering with First Things First and Kingman Unified School District to print tips over the summer to help kids prepare for the next school year. Even if you don't have kindergarteners this year, it's never too early to start helping kids prepare. Children who have positive experiences from birth to 5 are more likely to be prepared when they start kindergarten and do well in school.

"The standards are higher than ever before," said Little Explorers Preschool Director Julie Beyer.

For example, did you know that gaps in children's vocabulary can start to appear as early as 18 months of age, and that vocabulary, attention and general knowledge in the early years is linked to reading comprehension scores at ages 9 and 10?

Children who have positive experiences from birth to 5 are more likely to be prepared when they start kindergarten and do well in school. By turning everyday moments into learning moments, we can help our children develop the skills and the love of learning that will help them succeed in school and in life.

First Things First has compiled a list of suggestions on simple things parents and caregivers can do over the summer to support early literacy for their soon-to-be kindergartener. For more tips to prepare kids over the summer for their first day of school and success beyond, First Things First offers resources at azftf.gov in the Parent Section under Early Education.

Those tips include:

• Read to your child at least 30 minutes per day. Most libraries have books appropriate for young children. When reading a story, ask your child, "What happens next?" and wait for an answer.

• Have printed material around your house - the newspaper, magazines, etc. - and let your child see you reading often.

• Take your child with you and talk to your child everywhere - at home, in the car, at the store, in the bank. Make up stories or songs about your outings.

• Ask your child simple questions about the colors and shapes of objects. Count out number of objects. Point out letters and repeat what they are. Ask your child how he/she thinks objects are used.

"Reading to preschoolers is the perfect way to help them be ready for the first day of kindergarten," Beyer said.

By using everyday moments to help our children develop language and a love of books, our kids will build the early literacy skills they will need to succeed in school and in life. To quote Dr. Seuss, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!"

About First Things First - First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit azftf.gov. Erin Taylor is the First Things First community outreach coordinator for the Kingman area.