When the bell rings we go inside and learn: children's and parents' understandings of the kindergarten transition
The transition to kindergarten is a significant milestone for children and families in the United States. Education reform movements and early childhood policy initiatives have had significant impact on the transition process in recent years, and as a result, there is greater emphasis on promoting "ready children" for school. Previous research on the transition to kindergarten in the U.S. consists primarily of adult perspectives, examining parents and teachers' expectations for kindergarten and explicating their concerns about the transition. While adults impart important considerations about the transition to kindergarten, members of the early childhood community should also pay attention to children's perspectives as they too offer critical insight on getting ready for school. This dissertation foregrounds children's and experiences getting ready for and being in kindergarten, bringing attention their participation in transition activities and school routines. In addition, this study examines ways parents structure children's participation in transition activities and school routines to provide background information on children's experiences preparing for school. This study used data from a large-scale qualitative research project conducted in Arizona to understand children's experiences transitioning to kindergarten. Specifically, interviews with preschool-aged children, kindergarten-aged children, and mothers were analyzed to impart a deeper understanding of children's viewpoints becoming and being kindergarteners. Findings illustrate how mothers' understandings of kindergarten, and constructions of readiness have influence over the transition process. Moreover, findings offer thick descriptions of how children learn about kindergarten, make meaning of school rules and routines, and form membership within classroom communities of practice. Moreover, interpretations of children's viewpoints contribute nuanced understandings of situations that promote or hinder children's participation in transition activities, and subsequent engagement in kindergarten classrooms. This study contributes to the ongoing discourse on kindergarten readiness. The viewpoints of children and parents on getting ready for and being in kindergarten provide alternative perspectives, contributing to a more holistic understanding of the transition experience. Further, a key implication of this study is that children's perspectives be given due weight in practical, programmatic, and policy initiatives aimed at promoting positive and successful transitions to kindergarten.