Introduction 3
“You are? And what is that?” I ask.

“That’s the big school, silly!” She rolls her eyes, incredulous at my
ignorance of life’s important things. “For the big kids, because I am
big now.”
Malika’s mom sighs. “Yes, my baby is a big kid now.” She looks
proud and a little apprehensive at the same time. Her face tells me
that going to kindergarten will be a big event for this family, even
though Malika is going to the neighborhood elementary school,
which is only five blocks from her home and where her brother is
already in the second grade.

Going to kindergarten is the official beginning of a child’s educational
career. It is an important part of child development and the family life
cycle. It is also an important time for the school to make a good first im-
pression. Similarly, I want to begin this book’s important discussion by
presenting my beliefs, which are based on current research, best practices,
and my years of professional experience and observations.

• The transition to kindergarten is not a one-time event.

A transition is a passage from one place or stage to another.

It requires adapting feelings, thoughts, and behaviors from an
old situation to a new one. When children enter kindergar-
ten, they go from the intimate world of home or child care to
the institutional world of education, especially if they attend
a public school. Their families make the same adaptation. The
transition is not a one-time event happening on the first day of
school; rather, the transition begins before children enter school
and continues during their first year. The family, the preschool
program, and the receiving elementary school all play important
roles in making the transition smooth and productive. In order
for this to happen, these three groups must know one another
well, understand their different roles, share information, express
their hopes, and work together for the children’s benefit (Pianta,
Rimm-Kaufman, and Cox 1999).


4 Introduction
• Going to kindergarten is a developmental milestone.

Regardless of educational, cultural, or socioeconomic back-
ground, all families know about going to school, and all families
want their children to do well in school. The entry into kin-
dergarten is a milestone in the lives of families, likely the most
important step since the child was born. Even for children who
have attended a child care center or a family child care home,
kindergarten is the beginning of their formal education. Starting
kindergarten is exciting and scary at the same time. It can also
be intimidating, particularly for families with lower levels of
education and for new immigrants who are not familiar with the
culture and language of education.

• All families want the best for their children.

Depending on their level of education and knowledge of
the educational system, families have different ways of viewing
kindergarten. Highly educated families tend to approach the
entrance to kindergarten in the same way they would approach
looking for a college. They conduct research and visit schools to
choose the one that best meets their needs. Parents feel confident
in their ability to advocate for their child, so they ask about cur-
riculum, visit the school’s Web site to review test scores, and sign
up to volunteer in the classroom.

Immigrant families, families in poverty, and families with low
educational levels are less familiar with the culture of education.

These families are not as aware of their choices, and they may not
know how to conduct the search. If their child already attends a
preschool program, they rely on guidance from the staff. They
also expect that the school system will help them and provide
the best for their children. They are unsure about the rules
and expectations schools have regarding family involvement.

Unfortunately, if they act in ways that do not match educators’
hopes, they are perceived as being uninterested in their children’s
education (Christenson 1999).