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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Parents and Children Preparing for Kindergarten Together

Entering school is one of the most important transitions in a child’s life. Well-designed transition processes that engage families benefit children and build home–school relationships. In 2008, local preschool teachers approached Durham’s Partnership for Children—a community-based collaborative—seeking advice on how to determine if their students were ready for kindergarten. Inspired by the work of a transition effort in Pittsburgh called Ready Freddy, Durham’s Partnership for Children, in collaboration with Durham Public Schools, created the Transition to Kindergarten (TTK) Initiative.

Harvard Family Research Project spoke with Laura Benson, Sue Gilbertson, and Wren Davisson from Durham’s Partnership for Children to learn more about their approach to empowering families during the transition to school.

L-R; Laura Benson, executive director, Durham’s Partnership for Children, and Sue Gilbertson, program and evaluation director, and Wren Davisson, program coordinator, for the Transition to Kindergarten Initiative (TTK). The TTK Initiative utilizes a variety of strategies to engage families in the transition to school.


The TTK Initiative offers (1) transition teams that host events during the school year, (2) Blast Off Kits—an interactive bilingual tool disseminated to families to promote early literacy, enhance emotional and fine motor development, and prompt creativity in the home, (3) a community-wide Kindergarten Registration Week, and (4) a family-friendly mascot named Ready Eddy.

The Ready Eddy mascot —a little bull—represents Durham’s desire for all children to enter kindergarten with enthusiasm, curiosity, and self-confidence.

The TTK Initiative encourages communities to propose activities to engage families in the transition process. It offers a mini-grant program, which awards up to $500, to local groups that apply to collaborate with a Pre-K and elementary school programs in their community. Successful applicants have used funds to:

•    Hold Parents’ Night so that kindergarten teachers and school administrators can talk with incoming families about kindergarten life.
•    Host school visits to bring families and young children to tour kindergarten classrooms and invite kindergarten teachers to visit the Pre-K classrooms and meet with parents.
•    Purchase digital cameras and color printers so that children can take pictures of their home and share them with the new school, and the elementary school can distribute pictures of the kindergarten classroom to incoming families. The photographs allow parents and children to talk about their new school.
•    Buy materials and plan lessons for children and families about going to kindergarten on topics such as what to expect on the first day of school, how to ride the school bus, and how to go through the lunch line.

In the 2013–2014 school year, the TTK Initiative served more than 1,000 children.
•    1,500 (50% of the expected 2014–2015 class) rising kindergartners received Blast Off to Kindergarten Kits.
•    1,200 children on the waiting list for North Carolina’s Pre-K received information about kindergarten registration sent directly to their home.
•    548 families participated in transition activities at events funded by mini-grants at 16 child care centers and schools.
Plans are under way to learn more about how many Blast Off Kits are disseminated, how they are being used, and the impact they have on children’s readiness skills.

The TTK Initiative also looks into what parents have gained from their experience. Assessment forms are easy for parents with a range of literacy abilities to complete.

The TTK Initiative uses different evaluation forms to assess what parents have gained from participating in different programs. Above is a the evaluation form for the “Kindergarten, Here I Come Night” event.

As a graduate research assistant at Harvard Family Research Project, Laura Alves works on projects for the Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) and the Parent University Network. Laura is currently a graduate student at Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Education Policy and Management Program and a recent graduate from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she studied sociology and religious studies.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project