Kindergarten Bootcamp teaches school readiness

Volunteer teacher reading to a class of preschool kids

Of all the childhood milestones, the first day of school seems to be the most emotionally fraught for parents and kids. The earlier firsts—smile, all-night sleep, crawl, step, word—are biologically driven, highly anticipated and unreservedly joyful.

But starting school, activated by cultural norms instead of natural ones, signals the child’s “official” journey into the broader world, and just thinking about it can create anxiety and ambivalence for everyone involved.

For parents, the thought of waving goodbye to that dear little face at the classroom door is bittersweet at best, and the focus of a hundred worries. Will she be OK? Will he like his teacher? Will she make a friend? Should we have waited until next year? Have we done enough to prepare him?

Even if a child has happily and successfully attended a good preschool program, the transition to kindergarten is not guaranteed to be the proverbial “piece of cake.” Sometimes you get the big slice with lots of frosting; sometimes, you get the crumbs.

To help parents and their soon-to-be kindergarteners avoid that empty-plate feeling, the dedicated and knowledgeable early literacy team at Phoenix Public Library has developed a very special program.

Kindergarten Bootcamp is the hottest ticket in town right now for the 4- and 5-year-old set and their parents/caregivers and it is, outstandingly, free for attendees. Because it is being funded by Arizona First Things First and the Phoenix Library Foundation, all Kindergarten Bootcamp requires is a commitment on the part of a child’s parent/caregiver to attend seven one-hour sessions with that child.

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To be successful in school, kids need talking and listening skills in addition to vocabulary and reading skills.

Adults as well as kids must come ready to participate. Each very interactive session is built around a specific learning concept and will give parents/caregivers information, tools and activities to help prepare their children to succeed in kindergarten and meet the expectations of Arizona’s educational standards.

And each class, guided by early learning specialists, will give parents/caregivers the opportunity to learn and practice kindergarten-readiness skills with their children, so they can continue to reinforce those skills at home as often as possible.

That is the larger commitment, of course, but the one that will make the greatest difference for your child: you, and your time.

RELATED: The pre-kindergarten year

Research has demonstrated that to be successful in school, kids need talking and listening skills in addition to vocabulary and reading skills. They need involved parents who engage them, often, in activities that promote open-ended conversation; which, in turn, stimulates critical thinking and encourages creative use of their expanding vocabulary. The best preschool in the world can’t constantly provide the level of interaction that’s best for your child. Only you can, with a little help from your friends at the library.

Phoenix Public Library has Kindergarten Bootcamps available at their branches citywide, as well as at offsite locations such as community and health centers, and at community partners like the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Phoenix Changing Hands Bookstore.

Many begin the first week of June, and all require prior registration. Sign up early, space is limited. Please see the listings on the kids’ page of the library website for specifics.

RELATED: Kindergarteners still learn best through play.