Children’s picture books have been used in a variety of situations to introduce young children to unfamiliar experiences, including the transition to kindergarten. This study examines the ways in which children’s transition to formal schooling is portrayed in 52 American picture books about starting kindergarten. Grounded in the ecological and dynamic model of the kindergarten transition, this content analysis explores the role of the entering kindergartner’s family and the elementary school in supporting children during the kindergarten transition. Results show a high frequency of books (73%) depicting families (predominantly women) as supporting their children to start kindergarten and a low frequency of books (10%) depicting schools as supporting children and families with this transition. Kindergarten readiness skills were both discussed and performed in the home more often than they were mentioned or practiced in the kindergarten classroom, with an emphasis placed on children’s social-emotional development and approaches to learning skills. Findings indicate a need for more picture books about starting kindergarten that portray a wider array of kindergarten transition experiences reflective of best practices for supporting children with the transition, and a diverse range of family constellations including families from various racial, ethnic, and sociodemographic backgrounds.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Barbarin, O. A., Early, D., Clifford, R., Bryant, D., Frome, P., Burchinal, M., et al. (2008). Parental conceptions of school readiness: Relations to ethnicity, SES, and children’s skills. Early Education and Development, 19, 671–701. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409280802375257.
Bassok, D., Finch, J. E., Lee, R., Reardon, S. F., & Waldfogel, J. (2016a). Socioeconomic gaps in early childhood experiences: 1998 to 2010. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858416653924.
Bassok, D., Latham, S., & Rorem, A. (2016b). Is kindergarten the new first grade? AERA Open, 1(4), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858415616358.
Belfield, C., & Garcia, E. (2014). Parental notions of school readiness: How have they changed and has preschool made a difference? The Journal of Educational Research, 107(2), 138–151. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2012.753863.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1995). Developmental ecology through space and time: a future perspective. In P. Moen, G. H. Elder, & K. Lüscher (Eds.), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 599–618). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Cook, K. D., & Coley, R. L. (2017). School transition practices and children’s social and academic adjustment in kindergarten. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(2), 166–177. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000139.
Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428–1446. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2068.
Early, D. M., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J. (1999). Kindergarten teachers and classrooms: A transition context. Early Education and Development, 10(1), 25–46.
Friedman-Krauss, A. H., Barnett, W. S., Garver, K. A., Hodges, K. S., Weisenfeld, G. G., & DiCrecchio, N. (2019). The state of preschool 2018: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.
Hustedt, J. T., Buell, M. J., Hallam, R. A., & Pinder, W. M. (2018). While kindergarten has changed, some beliefs stay the same: Kindergarten teachers’ beliefs about readiness. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 32(1), 52–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/0256853.2017.1393031.
Jung, E. (2016). The development of reading skills in kindergarten influence of parental beliefs about school readiness, family activities, and children’s attitudes to school. International Journal of Early Childhood, 48, 61–78. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-016-0156-2.
Kang, J., Horn, E. M., & Palmer, S. (2017). Influences of family involvement in kindergarten transition activities on children’s early school adjustment. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45, 789–800.
Kasser, T. (2005). Frugality, generosity, and materialism in children and adolescents. In K. A. Moore & L. H. Lippman (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? Conceptualizing and measuring indicators of positive development (pp. 357–374). New York: Springer.
Little, M. H., Cohen-Vogel, L., & Curran, F. C. (2016). Facilitating the transition to kindergarten: What ECLS-K data tell us about school practices then and now. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18.
Livingston, G. (2018). 7 facts about U.S. moms. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/10/facts-about-u-s-mothers/.
National Education Association. (2002–2019). A parent’s guide to successful kindergarten transition. Retrieved from www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/44013_NEA_W_L6.pdf.
National Education Goals Panel. (1997). Getting a good start in school. Washington, D.C: National Education Goals Panel.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, P.L. 107–110, 20 U.S.C. § 6319 (2002).
Parmar, P., Harkness, S., & Super, C. M. (2008). Teacher or playmate? Asian immigrant and Euro-American parents’ participation in their young children’s daily activities. Social Behavior and Personality, 36(2), 163–176.
Phillips, E., & Sturm, B. (2013). Do picture books about starting kindergarten portray the kindergarten experience in developmentally appropriate ways? Early Childhood Education Journal, 41(6), 465–475. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-012-0560-7.
Pianta, R. C., Cox, M. J., Taylor, L., & Early, D. (1999). Kindergarten teachers’ practices related to the transition to school: Results of a national survey. Elementary School Journal, 100(1), 71–86.
Puccioni, J. (2015). Parents’ conceptions of school readiness, transition practices, and children’s academic achievement trajectories. The Journal of Education Research, 108(2), 130–147. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2013.850399.
Puccioni, J. (2018). Understanding how kindergarten teachers’ beliefs shapes their transition practices. School Community Journal, 28(1), 249–272.
Reardon, S. F., & Portilla, X. A. (2016). Recent trends in income, racial, and ethnic school readiness gaps at kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 2(3), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858416657343.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Pianta, R. C. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(5), 491–511.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J. (2000). Teachers’ judgments of problems in the transition to kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(2), 147–166.
Schulting, A. B., Malone, P. S., & Dodge, K. A. (2005). The effect of school-based kindergarten transition policies and practices on child academic outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 41(6), 860–871. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.110.
Sonnenschein, S., Galindo, C., Simon, C. L., Metzger, S. R., Thompson, J. A., Chung, M. (2016). How do children learn mathematics? Chinese and Latino immigrant perspectives. In S.S. Chuang & C. Costigan (Eds.), International perspectives on parenting and parent-child relations in immigrant families: Theoretical and practical implications. New York, NY: Springer.
West, J., Germino-Hausken, E., & Collins, M. (1995). Readiness for kindergarten: Parents and teacher beliefs (statistics in brief). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Wildenger, L. K., & McIntyre, L. L. (2011). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(4), 387–396. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-010-9403-6.
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix 1: School Readiness/Transition to Kindergarten Coding Sheet
Appendix 1: School Readiness/Transition to Kindergarten Coding Sheet
I. Transition to K
IV. Classroom Environment
V. School Readiness Skills
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Cutler, L., Slicker, G. Picture Book Portrayals of the Transition to Kindergarten: Who is Responsible?. Early Childhood Educ J 48, 793–813 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01040-w
- Picture books
- Kindergarten transition
- Content analysis