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4.4.3: Caregiver Goal- School Readiness

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    Our study of storytime attendees indicates that caregivers value school readiness as a goal of storytimes. School readiness includes a variety of skills, behaviors, and knowledge that children may develop so that they can enter school ready to be successful. One way to think about school readiness comes from the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework [external link] which details five domains of school readiness: 1.) approaches to learning; 2.) cognition; 3.) language and literacy; 4.) perceptual, motor, and physical development; and 5.) social and emotional development (Office of Head Start, 2015). Although this framework was designed for use in early education classrooms, it is readily applicable to the informal learning environment of storytimes because many of the behaviors that indicate progress in each domain can be encouraged during storytime activities, especially shared book reading. Below you’ll find explanations of each domain along with related strategies you can implement in storytime sessions throughout the year.

    Approaches to Learning


    how children learn

    Some Included Skills

    creativity; initiative; curiosity; working memory; emotional, behavioral, and cognitive self-regulation; following routines

    Suggested Strategy: Question an Informational Text

    Choose an informational text about an animal with many vivid illustrations and show one of the illustrations to the children. Ask children to share one thing they already know about the animal. Then ask one thing they want to know. (In case of low participation, prepare to guide the activity with pre-chosen questions such as “What does it eat?” or “Where does it live?”) Take each question one by one and talk aloud as you use the table of contents, indexes, and/or glossary to search for answers. If the answer can't be found in the chosen text, discuss other ways children might find information. (For more ideas on choosing and using informational texts, read the Spotlight On Informational Texts.)

    Suggested Strategy: Story Action

    The goal of this strategy is to build children's working memory. Before reading a story with a repeated phrase, show children an action they can do whenever they hear you read that phrase and give a hand signal (such as holding your hand out to them, palm up). Ideally, the action should correspond to the phrase. For example, if the phrase included the word “pout,” the action might include children making a pouty face. As you read, pause and give the hand signal before saying the phrase. If no children respond, repeat the phrase and signal again. If necessary, repeat the instructions. The goal is to scaffold all children so that they remember and do the action on their own by the end of the story.


    Strategy: Directed Transitions

    To give children practice in understanding and following routines, give directions out loud and explain expectations as you transition from one storytime activity to another. Using a visual aid such as a photo or illustration of a child doing the expected behavior is also helpful. Display these aids on a wall or screen to keep your hands free.

    Related Ideas in This Guide

    Path 1: Behavior Management

    Path 2: Spotlight on Informational Texts

    Path 5: Improve Support for Historically Underserved Groups - Families of Children with Differing Abilities or Cognitive Differences



    thinking that helps children understand and organize their world

    Some Included Skills

    exploration; planning; problem-solving; imitation; counting; addition and subtraction; pattern identification; understanding shapes; scientific reasoning

    Suggested Strategy: Problem-Solving Picturebook

    Share a picturebook in which the characters work together and make several attempts to solve a problem. During the reading, pause to ask the children whether they think the proposed solution will work and why or why not. After reading, ask the children why the solution worked and what other solutions may have worked. (This strategy pairs well with the Strive for 5 strategy from Path 1)

    Suggested Strategy: Counting Songs with Props

    Choose some favorites from the many available counting songs for preschoolers and create props or visual aids to share as the children sing. The combination of sight and sound helps reinforce this important cognitive skill. A research-proven strategy for teaching cardinality is to label the number of items in a set and then count the items (Mix et al., 2012).

    Suggested Strategy: Pattern Activities

    Lead children in an activity in which you ask them to extend a simple pattern (“What comes next?”) or identify the missing element in a given pattern (“What should go here?"). You can do this with toys such as blocks or stuffed animals, with movements to a song or chant, with a flannel board activity, or with sounds you ask them to create on musical instruments.

    Related Ideas in This Guide

    Path 1: Instructional Support Domain - Concept Development

    Path 2: School Readiness Focus: Aproaches to Learning and Cognition

    Language and Literacy


    language: abilities in listening to language, understanding language, and using language

    literacy: knowledge and skills related to reading and writing

    Some Included Skills

    communicating needs; communicating to gain information; vocabulary; following social and conversational rules; self-expression; imitating words and phrases; story comprehension; phonological awareness; print and alphabet knowledge

    Suggested Strategy: Open-Ended Prompts

    Open-ended prompts have more than one correct answer and require more than one word to answer completely, giving children opportunities to use new vocabulary and complex sentence structures (Hindman et al., 2019). After reading a story, use open-ended prompts to help children recall details and make connections to themselves. Here are some example prompts to adapt and try out:

    • Which character did you like best and why?
    • What is one thing the character(s) did in the story?
    • Have you ever ____? (insert potentially common activity from the story)
    • How did the character(s) feel and why?
    • What was your favorite part?
    • Did anything remind you of another story or show?

    Remember to wait at least 5 seconds after asking open-ended prompts to let those young minds think!

    For more on open-ended prompts, see Path 1: Instructional Support Domain – Language Modeling.

    Suggested Strategy: Print Referencing

    Studies have shown that children rarely look at print or initiate conversations about print on their own during shared reading (Evans & Saint-Aubin, 2011). Yet, knowledge of print is a foundational early literacy skill. Encourage children to look at print by using print referencing: pointing to a word on the page as you talk about it. You can do this with vocabulary words you’ve chosen to teach or simply with words that stand out because of their style, talking to children about what that style tells you as a reader. For example, as you read an informational text, you might point to the heading of the page and tell children that you know this is the heading because the words are bigger and/or in another color than other words on the page. For another example, as you read a picturebook, you might point to words written in large letters on the page and explain that the large letters show you, the reader, that the character is shouting.

    Suggested Strategy: Category Monster

    Construct a “monster” out of a cardboard box by cutting a wide hole for its mouth and using construction paper or what have you to give it eyes, ears, horns, polka dots, spikes, etc. Tell the children this is a Category Monster because it only wants to eat things in a certain category or that have a particular characteristic or trait. It also eats paper clips. Examples of categories might be things that are red, an animal with four legs, or things that start with the letter D. Then pass out objects (or pictures of objects) to each child. Have each child come forward and decide if their object fits the category the monster wants to eat. If it fits, they “feed” it to the monster by putting it through the mouth hole. If it doesn’t fit, they give you the object and you give them a paper clip to “feed” to the monster, so that every child has an opportunity to feed the monster. For large groups, instead of giving children the objects, display the objects or pictures and tell children that if they think you should feed it to the monster, they can hold up a hand, make a chomping motion, and/or make chomping noises with their mouths.

    Related Ideas in This Guide

    Path 1: Instructional Support Domain – Language Modeling

    Path 2: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Book Selection

    Path 2: School Readiness Focus: Language and Literacy

    Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development


    perceptual: using the five senses to acquire and understand information about the world

    motor: using the whole body or large muscles for gross motor movement and using small muscles, especially in the hands, for fine motor movement

    physical: knowledge and use of positive health, safety, and nutrition behaviors

    Some Included Skills

    using perceptual information to interact with objects and people;

    muscle control; coordination;

    following personal hygiene routines; identifying healthy and unhealthy foods; following personal safety rules

    Suggested Strategy: Fine Motor Crafts

    Many storytimes already include a craft time as an ending or extension activity because working with crafting tools like crayons and brushes gives children fun practice with the fine motor movements they’ll later use to write with a pen or use a computer mouse. Many websites offer ideas for simple preschool crafts, or you can lay out supplies and let children’s imaginations be their guide. Invest in construction paper, crayons, watercolor paints and brushes, glue sticks, safety scissors, and/or other craft supplies as your community's needs and program budgets allow. Library staff or volunteers may be interested in helping you plan and organize these craft times. Encourage caregivers to talk with children as they create to also strengthen language skills. (Read more about Language Modeling in Path 1.)

    Suggested Strategy: Senses Observation

    Bring in an object or set of objects for the children to pass around and observe with their senses. The object could be an everyday item such as a cup or leaf or rarer item such as a sports trophy or seashell. Using a visual aid - such as a poster with drawings of eyes, ears, a nose, and hands – ask children what they observe about the object by seeing, listening to, smelling, and touching it. As an adaptation, especially for large groups, you could pre-determine a list of descriptive words, some that fit the object and some that don’t, and then recite each word asking the children to point to a body part (eyes, ears, nose, or hand) to show which sense the word relates to and then raise a hand if they think the word fits today’s object. Perceptual development and language learning all in one!

    Suggested Strategy: Silly Dance Circle

    Invite children and their caregivers to stand in a circle. Together sing and act out two verses of the Hokey Pokey. Then explain that the Hokey Pokey is a silly dance someone made up and today everyone will have a chance to make up their own silly dance. Demonstrate a dance move of your creation and invite the children and caregivers to do it along with you. Since children’s creations may closely resemble your model, try to include both arm and leg movements in your creation. Then call on child volunteers to share their own silly dance moves for you and the rest to do along with them. Encourage them to pick a silly name for their silly dance. (For an overview of the scientific support for the connection between dancing and learning, read Judith Hanna’s (2016) blog post, “What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance.")

    Related Ideas in This Guide

    Path 2: School Readiness Focus: Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development and Social and Emotional Development

    Path 3: Songs and Movement

    Social and Emotional Development


    social: ability to create and maintain relationships with other children and adults

    emotional: ability to express, identify, and manage own emotions and to give appropriate responses to others’ expressed emotions

    Some Included Skills

    seeking help from familiar adults; cooperative play; basic conflict resolution;

    labeling own and others’ emotions; using expressions of care and concern; coping strategies

    Suggested Strategy: Emotion Cube

    Create an emotion cube: do an internet search to find pictures of faces that represent six common feelings - embarrassed, angry, proud, happy, sad, and nervous; print out the pictures; paste the pictures on the six sides of a square box (Harper, 2016). After reading a story in which characters experience all or most of those emotions, have a child roll the emotion cube like a die. Then ask which character had that emotion and what story event caused the emotion or what the character did because of the emotion. Some adaptations: ask the child to mimic the cube’s facial expression; ask the child to talk about what makes them feel the emotion or what they do when they feel it; lead all children in singing a verse of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” modified to fit the emotion on the cube with an appropriate action.

    Suggested Strategy: Yoga Breaks

    Among sharing stories, songs, and energetic activities, help children learn the calming strategy of practicing easy yoga poses. Practicing yoga can give children a coping strategy they can use while learning how to regulate their emotions (McClelland et al., 2017). Picturebooks about yoga for kids may be available from your library’s collection. You can find free videos on YouTube such as those from Cosmic Kids Yoga.

    Suggested Strategy: Conflict Resolution Discussion

    Studies indicate that children more easily transfer problem-solving ideas from picturebooks with realistic contexts and characters rather than those with fantastical contexts and non-human characters (Strouse et al., 2018). Share a book with realistic characters facing a simple social conflict. In a discussion using open-ended questions, ask children to describe the problem. Then ask children to describe how the characters solved the problem. As an extension, ask children what other ways the characters could have tried to resolve the conflict.

    Related Ideas in This Guide

    Path 2: School Readiness Focus: Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development and Social and Emotional Development

    Path 4: Caregiver Goal - Children Socializing

    Other useful resources for understanding school readiness and for more teaching and modeling strategies to implement in your storytime practices include:

    Understanding school readiness indicators and milestones can help you choose activities that are within a child’s zone of proximal development, or ZPD. ZPD is used to describe a range of activities that lie in between what a child can accomplish independently and what a child can do with scaffolding and support from an adult or more advanced peer (Terrell & Watson, 2018; Vygotsky, 1986). Children learn best when they engage in activities within their ZPD (Terrell & Watson, 2018; Vygotsky, 1986). Using the resources above, observe what children already know and do and talk to their attending caregivers about their knowledge and abilities. Then, plan activities that can help children both show off their current level and try something at the next level. As children’s ZPDs will vary, be careful to plan a range of activities in each session so that every child has the opportunity to be successful.

    4.4.3: Caregiver Goal- School Readiness is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.