When parents ask experts whether their youngsters are ready to start kindergarten, a common refrain is to flip the question around.
"What parents need to think about is, is the program ready for my child?" says Jason Sachs, director of early childhood programs for the Boston Public Schools.
Parents should visit prospective schools and check out the kindergarten classes before they enroll their children, he says. Classrooms should be vibrant and welcoming, with plenty of conversation, books and places to play. There should also be designated quiet areas.
"Is it a place that when you walk in, you're like, 'I want to be here'?" he says.
If the answer is no, parents should feel empowered to influence what goes on in the classroom, says Kyle Snow, the director of the National Assn. for the Education of Young Children's Center for Applied Research.
"There is a role for parent behavior, and that is advocating for their children and understanding what's going on in the school," he says. "There is room for trying to make the school fit the community."
—Jessica Pauline Ogilvie