January 03, 2015

Get Them Ready.....

Are You Ready?
It’s happened, hasn’t it?  The final threads of 2014’s annual cloak have been sewn, stitched and buttoned up. Get ready … our brand new year is here!

Get ready!  What does that really mean?  I don’t know about you, but it seems that in the last decade or so our nation has taken the phrase “get ready” and made it a cultural badge of pride and overarching necessity.  It reminds me of the chant from the book The Wizard of Oz; but instead of “follow the yellow brick road” it’s “we must get them ready!”  Move over munchkins, monkeys and Dorothy; I’m ready to pull the wizardly curtain back and ask, “Ready for what?” and “Why?”

I hear and read “get them ready” on an almost daily basis when it concerns our young people.  In conversations, presentations and publications – it’s everywhere.  We have to get them ready!  Get them ready for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second, and third and on and on.  And it just keeps going like a dysfunctional energizer bunny – before they’re out of elementary school, we’re working on getting them ready for middle school, then high school, and of course, college.  And no, it doesn’t end there!  Next our young adults need to get themselves ready for a job, a promotion, a raise, a better job, and then finally, retirement.  Whew!  Are you as exhausted as I am?!  Imagine the toll that our individual and collective efforts to “get them ready” are taking on our little and not-so-little ones!

The push to “get them ready” is likely well-intentioned. I do believe some level of preparation for all things new is appropriate.  But, I am convinced that as a result of our ever-increasing zeal to “get them ready” (for …?), we’re robbing our children of their present moments.  If they are always in a state of being made ready for some adult-appointed developmental landmark, there is little to no time for them to just “be” – to think, play, relax, create, breathe, enjoy and experience things in the moment.  And we all know that both the love of learning and the actual act of learning are best nurtured when one is able to take time and explore, question, wonder, interact, think, make mistakes, try again and be present.  And isn’t that truly what we want for our children? Then why are we so determined to “get them ready?”  Whose agenda are we really meeting?

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to join others who are questioning the overwhelming message to “get them ready.”  Instead, let’s get ourselves ready with information and support to share with those who make the decisions about how children’s learning environments are structured.  Let’s help each other do the right thing for our kids and, ultimately, for our society and the world itself.

Start by checking out some books today, including Their Name is Today by Johann Arnold, What Does It Mean to be Well Educated by Alfie Kohn and Taking Back Childhood by Nancy Carlsson-Paige. These are but a few of the many resources the library has for you as you work to support your child getting a little less “ready”, a lot less stressed and much more eager to learn in ways that are meaningful, respectful and developmentally appropriate.  Are you ready?

Kathleen Ahern
Children's Librarian

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