SOURCE: Zaner-Bloser

August 26, 2014 09:45 ET

Kindergarten Is the New First Grade -- and Many Students Are Unprepared

New Handwriting-Readiness Program Builds Necessary Foundational Skills

COLUMBUS, OH--(Marketwired - August 26, 2014) - Parents of today's kindergarteners are finding that the first year in school is no longer about circle time, recess, and learning the alphabet. Experts say that many of today's kindergarten students are unprepared for what has become the new first grade. In order to meet increased academic demands, kindergarten students require a strong set of foundational skills.

Hillary Koontz, former kindergarten teacher and associate editor for Zaner-Bloser, says that the range of skill levels in a classroom of students can be extremely varied and, in some cases, alarming. "You can have one child who is already beginning to read and can write his or her name and another child who doesn't understand the concept of writing and has never even picked up a pencil," says Koontz.

Handwriting Link to Academic Success
Researchers and early childhood educators know that academic success is based in large part on establishing a foundation of skills that prepare children to be successful before they enter kindergarten. According to Dr. Laura Dinehart, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education at Florida International University, handwriting should be added to the mix in early childhood classrooms.

"Growing research is showing an important link to teaching handwriting in early childhood classrooms. In K-12 students, handwriting has been linked to academic performance, the production of more complex compositions, and higher self-efficacy and self-concept," said Dr. Dinehart. Yet, some early childhood educators still hesitate to teach handwriting in their classroom.

Recent research conducted by Dr. Dinehart suggests that a preschooler's ability to imitate strokes; copy letters, numerals and shapes; and draw simple objects is associated with both reading and math achievement in second grade.

Zaner-Bloser Launches Handwriting Readiness Program
To help students build the strong foundational skills required for academic success, Zaner-Bloser announced the launch of a new product in their handwriting division geared toward early childhood classrooms. ABC 123 Just For Me! is a multisensory program that takes a fun approach and introduces young students to handwriting instruction while developing the following readiness skills:

  • Letter recognition
  • Print awareness
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Gross-motor skills
  • Fine-motor skills
  • Spatial awareness
  • Handwriting skills

The program incorporates videos, sing-along songs, custom stories for each letter, and take-home practice booklets. The teacher guide provides instruction and tips, and a handwriting readiness resource kit includes a variety of manipulatives and activities to support ABC 123 Just For Me!

As former educators, Zaner-Bloser developers designed a flexible and fun program to help students and teachers who are struggling with the notion that new standards don't leave much time for the "fun stuff."

"Teaching handwriting does not always have to involve pencils, paper, and practice drills," said Koontz, ABC 123 Just For Me! editor. "That's what is great about this program. It is fun and lets kids be kids -- while teaching foundational skills."

ABC 123 Just For Me! will be available to early childhood educators beginning in September. Visit for more information.

About Zaner-Bloser
Zaner-Bloser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highlights for Children celebrating 125 years of experience in education this year, is an educational curricula and digital resources provider in language arts/literacy and 21st century learning. Zaner-Bloser provides flexible solutions and services that improve results and inspire students to become lifelong learners and is committed to meeting schools' needs today -- and in the future.

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