Family Routines and Positive Parenting Practices Help to Support Kindergarten Readiness

October 22, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

In a recent analysis, the Shelby County Schools (SCS) and The Urban Child Institute (UCI) study group looked at the ways family routines and other positive parenting practices support the readiness of new kindergarten students. Research tells us that family routines, like regular bedtime or mealtime routines, help children develop self-control and self-confidence. Family routines also help strengthen children’s early language and literacy skills.

When it comes to these routines, it seems that more is better.

When families have a range of daily routines that involve both parents and children, those children are more likely to develop strong social and emotional skills, and reach school with more powerful language, academic, and social skills.

Last fall, we asked parents of incoming kindergarteners to tell us about their family routines. Parents were asked how often they engaged in different types of routines with their pre-schoolers, like getting ready in the morning, getting ready for bedtime, or at mealtimes. Parents were also asked about a range of other positive parenting practices, like reading with their children, singing the alphabet, and playing counting and sorting games.

Parents’ responses were then compared to their children’s kindergarten readiness scores. Each fall, incoming kindergarteners in Shelby County are given a measure of reading readiness called the Istation Early Reading  assessment, which helps the district see if a student is performing at grade level, moderately below grade level, or severely below grade level. For this study, we compared the Istation Early Reading scores of 354 new kindergarteners with information on family routines collected from their parents.

The results are telling.

When families establish and try to keep to regular routines – particularly around getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed – their children are significantly more likely to reach kindergarten on grade level for Istation Early Reading.

These findings are good news for parents because they offer small ways that we can all support our children’s school readiness.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-03)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools


Positive role models in a child’s neighborhood are linked to school success in Memphis, TN.

June 23, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /
When parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

There are many resources that can help to support families with young children. Some resources, such as health insurance, sufficient nutrition, and books and toys, can support healthy early childhood development directly. Other resources, such as a safe home, help to support a family’s well-being, and reduce a child’s exposure to chaos and toxic stress. There is also a third category of resources that are not tied to a family’s income.

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These include the set of relationships and informal resources that a family can draw upon in times of need. For some families, these informal relationships provide a source of support. The help of extended family, neighbors, and friends can offer a safety net and provide an important resource to families. Collectively, these informal relationships are considered a large component of a family’s level of “social capital.”

The influence of having an informal network of interpersonal resources has been well documented on a range of outcomes for individuals and for communities. When neighbors keep a watch out for each other and keep a protective eye on each other’s homes and property, for example, not only do residents feel safer, but by objective measures, crime actually is lower in those neighborhoods.

If these informal resources are important for family well-being, is it possible that they also support early childhood development? In turn, do they help to support school readiness?

Our findings are striking: when parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

These findings help to strengthen our understanding of the ways that neighborhood characteristics can matter for early childhood well-being. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and this is particularly true for families trying to juggle the many demands of modern life. Having a neighbor or friend to count on for help can make a tremendous difference for families, including better outcomes for their children.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-02)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools


Literacy in Memphis and Shelby County: Some groups of low-income students are doing much better than others.

February 25, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Literacy is context specific.
Literacy is necessary for college and career readiness and success.
Many Shelby County Schools (SCS) students are not college ready in reading.
Low-income youth are less likely to be proficient in reading.
Some groups of low-income students are doing much better than others.
Young adults’ literacy levels reflect early learning, school environments, and family and community factors.
Stronger, individual-level measures of literacy level need to be part of any literacy intervention.

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In 2013, two in three children in Shelby County entered kindergarten below age-appropriate levels of reading readiness.

January 27, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /
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Source: 12. Sell, M. (2013). Research Brief: Kindergarten Readiness. Shelby County Schools Office of Planning and Accountability, Office of Research, Planning, and Improvement.


Low-income children have weaker early reading skills. Most children in Shelby County Schools are from low-income families.

January 27, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Low-income children have weaker early reading skills.
Weaker pre-reading skills make learning to read more difficult.
Kindergarten readiness gaps become academic achievement gaps.

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Download Brief 02/2014 (PDF)

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Many children in Shelby County reach school at a disadvantage.

January 23, 2014 / Uncategorized / 0 Comments /

Adverse early childhood experiences influence language development in the early years.
Early disadvantages in development lead to lower levels of kindergarten readiness.
Readiness gaps become academic achievement gaps and grow wider over time.

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Download Brief 01/2014 (PDF)

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Factors impacting reading readiness

January 8, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /
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Early childhood differences influence reading readiness…
Memphis, TN, 2012

Source: Shahin Samiei, M. Sell, A. Bush & D. Imig. 2012. “Evaluating the relationship between the Imagination Library early childhood literacy program and kindergarten readiness.”