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Kindergarten, Here I Come!

A regular reading habit gets your child ready for school --

By the time a child starts kindergarten, he will have passed through a great many developmental milestones.  The vast majority of children arrive with the foundational skills they need to start their learning journey.  However, to ensure that all children come to school ready to learn, many school districts across the country assess kindergarten readiness upon entry, to identify those children who may benefit from some extra help.  Charleston County uses The Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning™, Fourth Edition (DIAL™-4).  This screening tool targets five key developmental areas: motor, language, concepts, social-emotional, and self-help.  It provides guideposts for what children should know, and the skills they should have, to hit the ground running.

The sooner developmental concerns are flagged, and supports put in place, the more likely a child is to catch up and keep on track.  Click
here if you want to learn more about DIAL™-4 and how these skills are assessed.  Then, read on to discover how books and a regular reading practice bolster skills in all these developmental areas.  It’s never too early to start, and as you will see, no matter your child’s age, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/BEGIN WITH BOOKS has many excellent titles to choose from.

Motor Development

Motor means any sort of movement.  Development comes in two forms, according to the types of muscles involved.  Gross motor skills involve large muscles, like arms and legs – throwing, standing, hopping, skipping.  Fine motor skills use the small muscles of the arms and hands – building a tower out of blocks, cutting a straight line, copying letters, drawing a picture.  Young children love to move their bodies and do so without inhibition.  Action songs, rhymes, and finger-plays are a great place to start.  Build up your repertoire with the help of these book suggestions and get your little one dancing, spinning, clapping, stomping, and tumbling down.  Finger-plays like “Eensie Weensie Spider” and “Pat-a-Cake” are terrific for fine motor movement.  And keep in mind that every time your child turns a page, lifts a flap, or points to a picture he is using his fine motor skills.

  • The Pudgy Pat-a-Cake Book, Illustrated by Terri Super
  • The Pudgy Peek-a-Boo Book, Amye Rosenberg
  • Clap your Hands, Lorinda Bryan Cauley



When it comes to developmental milestones, language is perhaps the one that consumes parents the most – producing pride and worry in equal measure.  The majority of children, the world over, are talking well by age four.  However, as any kindergarten teacher will tell you, they differ widely in their vocabulary and pre-reading skills - knowledge of the alphabet, phonetic awareness, and concepts of print, for example.  

Children with stronger language skills at school entrance have a significant learning advantage that continues throughout their schooling.  By enrolling your child in BEGIN WITH BOOKS, and having books in your home, you have already given her a head start.  And by establishing a regular reading habit, you are ensuring she has the language skills she will need to achieve in school.  For more tips on language development check out our previous blogs on The Importance of Rhyming, Breaking the Code, and Just Keep on Talking.  And here are some favorite titles that introduce your little one to common first words and sounds, the power of poetry, rhyme, and repetition, as well as fun ways to practice letters, recognize words, and love learning to read.

  • Baby Talk! Penny Gentieu
  • Sassy: Baby’s First Words, Grosset & Dunlap
  • Baby Sounds, Joy Allen
  • Squeak!, Laura McGee Kvasnosky
  • Who Says Quack?, Grosset & Dunlap
  • Little Poems for Tiny Ears, Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie dePaola
  • There’s A Hole In The Log On The Bottom Of The Lake, Loren Long
  • Llama Llama Loves to Read, Anna Dewdney 
  • Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!, Nancy Carlson



When your child points to Fido and says “doggie” and not “skunk” or “kitty,” she already knows a lot about dogs.  Her learning is happening rapidly, and in just a few short years she will have amassed a HUGE number of concepts.  Concepts are how we organize the world around us into patterns and categories so we can make sense of our experiences and build on our learning.  We pay special attention to certain concepts like numbers, colors, shapes, plants, people, and animals, because we can’t navigate the world without them.  Little wonder then, that songs, nursery rhymes, games, activities, and especially books, tend to focus on these concepts in the early years.  Once again, the better the grounding your child has in core concepts, the easier time she will have in school.  Be sure to check out our blog on Corduroy’s Shapes or learning to count, filled with book suggestions and tips.  Here is just a sampling of titles that abound in concepts for babies and young children.  While every book is a concept book, these focus on the core concepts in particular.

  • Sassy: Let’s Count: A First Book of Numbers, Grosset & Dunlap
  • Goodnight, Numbers!, Danica McKellar, illustrated by Alicia Padrón
  • One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me!, John Micklos Jr. and Clive McFarland
  • Corduroy’s Shapes, Mary Jo Scott, Don Freeman, et al.
  • Dog’s Colorful Day: A Messy Story About Colors and Counting, Emma Dodd
  • Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse, Jane Godwin, illustrated by Blanca Gómez
  • The Pudgy Where is Your Nose? Book, Grosset & Dunlap
  • What’s the Opposite? (The Hueys), Oliver Jeffers



Sometimes your child’s drive to be independent doesn’t mesh with your need to get things done.  But you’d be surprised at how many things your little love can do on his own with minimal assistance from you.  And the more tasks he can do on his own, the more your time is freed up.  So, the next time he’s struggling to put his arm through his sleeve, don’t rush in and do it for him.  Encourage his perseverance, and provide just enough guidance to avoid frustration, however long it takes.  Then savor the pride he takes in his accomplishment right along with him.  

There are many age-appropriate ways to bolster independence in daily-living skills such as dressing, eating, and grooming.  Children enjoy doing things on their own, so the pay-off works both ways.  And remember to be a good role model yourself by intentionally modelling self-help skills.  You don’t need a special book to talk about these skills.  Many books provide excellent stepping-off points for conversations about the things your child already does, or could try, on his own.  Point out when a character is striving to be independent, and relate it back to your own child’s efforts.  There are all sorts of prompts in these books to talk about self-help -- dressing, grooming, helping, and the like. 

  • Edie is Ever so Helpful, Sophy Henn
  • Tomorrow I’ll be Brave, Jessica Hische
  • Hair Love, Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison


Social-Emotional Development

Do you remember when your baby first smiled back at you and it melted your heart?  That was one of her very first social-emotional milestones.  Social connection is what makes us human, so development happens with every interaction she has with you and the people around her.  Just think of all the social skills she will have learned from that first smile to her first day of kindergarten.   

To manage well in school, she needs to be able to get along with other children, build meaningful friendships, and follow classroom etiquette.  Skills like sharing, empathy, and self-control are particularly important.  Being able to put words to her feelings, rather than acting out, will make her more resilient and better able to cope with challenging situations.   For example, Dolly Parton’s book I Am A  Rainbow connects colors to moods and feelings.  Her aim is to teach children the words they need to express and regulate their emotions – a key skill when it comes to kindergarten readiness. 

Every time you snuggle up with a book, you are fostering healthy social-emotional development.  Reading time strengthens attachment bonds, buffers stress, and builds resilience.  Apart from the simple act of reading, books are excellent conversation starters.  Here are some that will get you talking about empathy, kindness, and inclusion.  Our blog on the importance of snuggling up with a book for your child’s emotional development can be found here.

  • I Am a Rainbow, Dolly Parton, Illustrated by Heather Sheffield.
  • The Rabbit Listened, Cori Doerrfeld
  • Violet the Pilot, Steve Breen
  • Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson.
-- Caron Bell, PhD, Early Childhood Development, and volunteer   
All the titles mentioned and illustrated in this blog are distributed by BEGIN WITH BOOKS via Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.


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