TAHOE/TRUCKEE - Three decades of research have identified social skills as essential for academic success. These skills include: getting along with others (parents, teachers and peers), following directions, identifying and regulating emotions and behavior, thinking of appropriate solutions to conflict and persisting on task.
Development of these skills begins at birth when infants experience positive, ongoing relationships with familiar nurturing adults and continues through infancy and toddlerhood into early childhood education settings.
In the past year, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, with funding support from Nevada County Behavioral Health, has been introducing Second Step to community Early Learning Programs as well as providing a new kindergarten through fifth-grade curriculum to elementary classrooms.
Second Step for Early Learning is a classroom-based program designed to increase children's school readiness and social success by building social-emotional competence and self-regulation skills.
In a national study of what kindergarten teachers viewed as essential or very important school readiness skills, less than a third named specific academic skills, such as knowing the names of colors and shapes, counting to 20, or recognizing letters, as compared to more than 75 percent who highlighted skills such as being able to follow directions, not be disruptive, and communicate both needs and thoughts.
Second Step Early Learning curriculum begins with Skills for Learning and a focus on four self-regulations skills - listening, focusing attention, self-talk and being assertive.
Through engaging daily activities including interactive story cards, puppets, storybooks, games, and music, a foundation is created to support the building blocks of the curriculum: empathy; emotion management; friendship skills; problem solving; and transitioning to kindergarten.
Familiarity in preschool with concepts and language of Second Step helps children make a smooth transition into the kindergarten environment and on through Grade 5.
In preschool, your child will learn many types of skills: practicing separating from you at drop off time; adjusting to new situations; making friends; listening to others; and forming first friendships. All of these skills develop with time, patience and practice.
Reading books together in which the characters are going through the same thing can help your preschooler develop these important skills. In addition to building social skills, reading books is one of the best ways to help your child love books and reading, keys to your child's success in school.
It builds knowledge and vocabulary and helps your child ask questions, which teaches your child to express his ideas. Below are four books in which characters are learning the same skills as your preschooler. Consider adding these to your next stack at the library.
• "The Kissing Hand" (by Audrey Penn): Chester Raccoon just wants to stay with his Mom. Despite her assurances about how great school is, Chester would rather stay home. Chester's Mom sends him off with a special secret (The Kissing Hand) that makes the transition much easier.
• "Chester's Way" (by Kevin Henkes): This is the story of Chester and his friend Wilson, who know just how they like things. From shoelaces to sandwich cutting, these two are best friends. And then Lilly moves into the neighborhood. She turns things upside down and teaches us all about making new friends.
• "Otis" (by Jane Bynum): Otis just doesn't fit in with his family. Despite being a pig, he likes things neat and tidy, including not want to roll in the mud! One day Otis meets a frog with a mud problem. The solution and the friendship will leave your preschooler smiling.
• "I Like Me!" (by Nancy Carlson): Another story about a pig, this book is about loving who you are, an important message to send kids. "I like my curly tail, my round tummy and my tiny little feet," the pig says. "When I make a mistake, I try and try again!" This is a comforting story about loving the special things about oneself.
Each of these books provides an opportunity to talk with your child about what's happening with the characters and what's happening at preschool. Your child will appreciate a safe and fun setting for sharing his feelings.
- Ruth Jackson Hall is the early learning coordinator with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. She can be contacted at 530-582-2583 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more information at Reading Rockets: www.readingrockets.org.