Children left behind: Making the grade before kindergarten

Zachary Miller was turned away from pre-school because he scored too high on the entrance exam.

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Preparation for kindergarten is critical during a child's early years of education.

According to the South Carolina Community Foundation, 19 percent of adults in South Carolina are illiterate, and the problem begins before children go to elementary school.

Statistics show that income has an impact on how quickly a child progresses, and that lower income families have a tougher time due to lack of reading and access to pre-school.

"While income could be a challenge I don't think that it is something to keep children from being productive in the future," said Jon Ballard, parent of a kindergartener.

There are several efforts throughout the state to help people that struggle with literacy, however, the problem begins before the classroom. Research shows that daycare, pre-school and learning at home have an effect on a child's ability to learn.

According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a child that has been reading and learning at home starts kindergarten six months ahead. By the time they complete kindergarten, children without the same resources are brought up to speed, and learn at the same rate as the others.

The campaign reports that the child with home reinforcement starts first grade two months ahead after continuing to learn during the summer, while the child without home reinforcement loses those two months. By the time children reach fifth grade, a child that does not continue learning outside of school can be years behind other children who are actively learning outside of the classroom.

Children who are academically prepared for kindergarten may miss out on the social growth experience. Programs that have limited openings might focus on the children who need the most academic development before heading to kindergarten, which leaves the parent's of the better prepared children to continue teaching their children at home.

Zachary Miller was turned away from pre-school because he scored too high on the entrance exam.

"I just really wanted him to get social skills," said Djaris Miller, Zachary's mother. "But I was able to work with him at home, so it was ok for another child to get his spot."

Newberry Elementary Teacher Jackie Holmes admits getting a child ready for kindergarten can be a challenge.

Holmes is involved in a program called Countdown to Kindergarten, an in home program designed to help parents transition their child into their first year of school.

"We just have to concentrate hard on the seven hours we have them per day, and just do all we can during that time," said Holmes. "It's a big battle, it's not easy."

Click here for more information on state programs that were established to help children learn.