School readiness includes not only the early academic skills of children but also their physical health, language skills, social and emotional development, motivation to learn, creativity, and general knowledge. Families and communities play a critical role in ensuring children’s growth in all of these areas and thus their readiness for school. Schools must be prepared to teach all children when they reach the age of school entry, regardless of their degree of readiness. Research on early brain development emphasizes the effects of early experiences, relationships, and emotions on creating and reinforcing the neural connections that are the basis for learning. Pediatricians, by the nature of their relationships with families and children, may significantly influence school readiness. Pediatricians have a primary role in ensuring children’s physical health through the provision of preventive care, treatment of illness, screening for sensory deficits, and monitoring nutrition and growth. They can promote and monitor the social-emotional development of children by providing anticipatory guidance on development and behavior, by encouraging positive parenting practices, by modeling reciprocal and respectful communication with adults and children, by identifying and addressing psychosocial risk factors, and by providing community-based resources and referrals when warranted. Cognitive and language skills are fostered through timely identification of developmental problems and appropriate referrals for services, including early intervention and special education services; guidance regarding safe and stimulating early education and child care programs; and promotion of early literacy by encouraging language-rich activities such as reading together, telling stories, and playing games. Pediatricians are also well positioned to advocate not only for children’s access to health care but also for high-quality early childhood education and evidence-based family supports such as home visits, which help provide a foundation for optimal learning.
- Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics