Thinking About Kindergarten Readiness

It’s helpful to think about four touchstones that make for kindergarten readiness: language and literacy development, thinking skills, self-control, and self-confidence. Those TV commercials that tell us that we need special tools and videos to get our children ready to read miss the point entirely. It’s not just vocabulary development that matters, but also a child’s joy in learning, their curiosity, and their comfort in venturing into unfamiliar territory.

Early childhood development has been described as a process of leaps and bounds, and language and literacy development and cognitive skills develop alongside social and emotional skills and abilities. Children who have been encouraged to play and to explore their worlds are in stronger shape when it comes time to go to school. It’s not the games or toys that matter as much as the curiosity and exposure to the world around them that matters. When children come from homes where they have not seen the Mississippi, or where they have not visited the library, they are more likely to have a difficult time when they reach kindergarten.

Differences in early experiences have life-long consequences. This is where pre-kindergarten programs can make such a powerful difference. A high quality pre-kindergarten program can make a world of difference, particularly for children who start life at a social and economic disadvantage. Children from poor families may gain 30% on cognitive tests by attending pre-kindergarten.

There’s even more good news: It’s not just poor children who benefit from pre-kindergarten. Reports keep coming in that say, as a group, all children who participate in pre-kindergarten do better in both early math and reading development.1

Recognizing the power of pre-k, the Unified Shelby County School District would like to see all children in Shelby County have the chance to attend high-quality pre-kindergarten. We expect the result will be stronger school readiness, better academic performance, and a brighter future for our community.


Gormley, William and Gayer, Ted. (2005.) The Effects of Universal Pre-K on Cognitive Development.  Developmental Psychology, 41(6). Available here.