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Web posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Parents can prepare children for pre-K

By Jenna Martin
Staff Writer

Entering a classroom for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for young children and their parents.

That's why preparing for a pupil's first day is important in the transition into pre-kindergarten, educators say.

Parents are encouraged to read to their children every night and ask simple questions about the story. Children should be allowed to choose their own books.

"Reading to them is always key," said Michele Sherman, Columbia County's director of elementary education. "That's probably the No. 1 thing that I tell parents to do to prepare."

Sherman said parents should begin working on letter recognition with their 4-year-olds.

Parents can also help pupils adapt to pre-K by involving them in simple household chores, such as setting the table or feeding a pet, said Stephanie Brooks, who teaches pre-K at South Columbia Elementary School.

Brooks said children come to pre-K with a variety of group experiences.

"The pre-K program is designed to meet the children where they are in their development and move forward from there," she said.

Brooks also suggested that pupils do certain tasks, such as dressing and feeding themselves, to develop independence. Parents should talk to children about their surroundings to encourage language and vocabulary development and help them become independent thinkers.

Children can strengthen their motor skills by running, climbing and kicking a ball, said Brooks, who also encourages parents to play easy games with children.

Throughout the school year, pupils in pre-K will learn personal, social and literacy skills as well as how to become independent in a classroom setting. They also will become aware of the environment and experiment with art and science tools.

The purpose of pre-K, Brooks said, is to prepare children for kindergarten.

"Pre-K allows for a nurturing and safe environment in which children are allowed to learn and grow at their own pace," she said.

Sherman also advises parents to take their child to the school before classes start to familiarize them with the new environment.

Each school will post a supply list so parents will know what items to purchase for the school year. The information will be listed on each school's Web site, www.ccboe.net.

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