About Beyond the Backpack

Just as Backpack helps Dora prepare for new adventures, Nickelodeon’s pro-social initiative Beyond the Backpack provides parents with tools to prepare their children to excel in life's next big adventure: kindergarten! Beyond the Backpack offers tips, activities, and resources focused on four major areas: Cognitive Skills, Social and Emotional Skills, Health and Wellness Basics, and Parent Involvement in Schools.

The initiative includes dedicated celebrity-endorsed public service announcements, community outreach, as well as a website with an online Kindergarten Readiness Quiz and printable checklist, customized school readiness plans and skill-building activities, and resources for parents and educators. The quiz and checklist were created by educators and developmental experts in consultation with the Beyond the Backpack Advisory Committee.

National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) leads the initiative's on-ground support as the signature grassroots partner. The child advocate organization is the co-author of the Kindergarten Readiness Toolkit, available to more than 5 million parents and educators nationwide. The Toolkit has also been developed in collaboration with the members of the Advisory Committee. All materials are available in both English and Spanish.

Why is School Readiness So Important?

Learning starts long before the first day of kindergarten. According to Born Learning, United Way Worldwide's public engagement campaign, children start learning at birth. Children who get off to a good start by or before kindergarten tend to maintain that advantage as they progress through school. Still, research shows that too many kindergartners in the U.S. are lacking in at least one area of development.

Research from United Way shows that nearly half of today's children are not adequately prepared when it's time to start kindergarten. In fact, more than one-third of American children begin kindergarten without the basic language skills they will need to learn to read. Children who can't read by third grade are unlikely to graduate high school, yet sadly, 67 percent of all fourth graders can't read at grade level.

Beyond the ABCs and 123s

Ongoing studies also confirm that children's readiness for school is multi-faceted. The National Head Start Association believes that children need to learn a range of skills including language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social and emotional development, and physical health and development. Educational achievement gaps often already exist by the start of kindergarten, and the larger the gap at school entry is, the harder it is to close. That's why the earliest experiences and environments set the stage for future development in school and life.