Today started off quite normally - cleaning up after sending the Miniatures and husband out the door to their relevant posts for the day, talking to my mum, and a little light browsing of Facebook.
Scrolling through my feed, I came across this post that a friend had shared late last night. The post is about putting too much pressure on children, who are entering school, to be able to, or be ready to learn to read. I read it last night, and glibly commented at first, but reading other comments today, it prompted me to write further.
Apparently there is a widespread belief that children should be able to read from pre-kindergarten, onward - to achieve reading success in the future. But, the article attempts to explain why the urging these skills upon children at an early age, is detrimental to their learning journey.
I'm sorry, what?
One of the commenters on Facebook asked the very question I ask in my title: why do children need to read before kindergarten?
I'm sorry, what?
I have no idea if this commenter has children or not, but it is such a straight up ignorant question. Now, I'm not an expert, either. Mini man has some reading skills, and has had since he was four - although he can't talk. We also assume that these are more memorized words, than true reading but - it works. He uses pecs (picture exchange communication system) to help him to talk and grasp the world around him, so he is exposed to written words that accompany the pictures all the time.
My daughter however, struggles with reading, and can only do it if she isn't thinking about it. From the age of two I have encouraged her to read with gizmos like a leapfrog pen, various apps on the iPad to encourage reading and writing - Reading Raven is excellent ($3.99 on the AppStore). Leo's Pad Enrichment Program is an excellent learning tool, too. Missy is excellent with number, though, and has been able to name shapes, colours, perform one more than/less than and even identify lines of symmetry since before she was four. Now, she is five and can count to 100 - without stopping.
Where possible I have encouraged the children to learn; because they love it. Missy loves stories. She loves having stories read to her, or made up stories. She will role play with her ponies or her little dolls for hours, constantly chatting away as she performs each little voice. She has one big imagination, and every day she is eager to broaden that imagination.
While she struggles to read, she is constantly looking at books and you can see the desire in her to be able to read those stories to herself when I or her step-father are doing other things.
I believe children need to read, or be learning about reading at such an early age because it helps them to develop and understand more of the world around them. I don't believe a child needs to read just to meet some criteria set down by whichever curriculum dictates it. I believe they need it for themselves - to discover enjoyment in everything around them. So, yes. I'm all for encouraging children to be knuckling down, and reading in kindergarten.
It is incredibly surprising, to me, that there is resistance to children reading at the age of six. I learned to read by the time I was four. In England children start school at four. For only one half term (semester) are they half day, to help them to settle in. That's about six weeks. None of this pansy half day crap, that we have to put up with here. Full days. 8:40 am to 3:15 pm. At age FOUR.
Missy is five, and still in preschool. She's been in pre-school since she was two, and frankly - she is bored. She doesn't want to be in a class with three year olds. She wants to be in proper school, following a proper learning journey. How can a teacher teach thing appropriate for a three and a five year at the same time? I know the class does small group work so they are divided by age and ability, but it must be hard for the teacher to split the time up accordingly.
My poor daughter was expecting to be staying for lunch, but I explained that no, not this year because she is still preschool. I told her that next year, she could ride on the bus and stay for lunch. Much to my surprise, the school assistant interjected with, oh they are only half day in Kindergarten too. That's right; the year these children are turning six, and they will still be half day. In England, by that time the children have already completed a full year of full day school. They are reading, can count, get homework. The works. By age six, the schools are teaching them to spell.
Missy will be almost seven, by the time she starts to have a full school day. That's the way it is around here. I find it shocking. I was learning cursive writing, with big words by then. I expect my daughter to be able to do the same. Oh, I forget. They don't teach cursive writing anymore. I heard on the grapevine they don't really teach spelling (they better do!).
Of course, it is my own upbringing and culture that has shaped my beliefs surrounding how children should be taught in schools, and at home. I'm fully aware that I'm spouting off about the way it is done somewhere else, and that I should accept that this is the way here. That's great. I don't accept the uproar and supposition that schools are putting pressure on kids who are almost six, though. Hey, they have to learn sometime, and what parent doesn't want their child to excel?
Reading is an everyday important skill that would benefit any child to learn. With exceptions - like learning difficulties - let the children grow, and be the best they can be. If they are interested in books and stories at age three, encourage it. We, as adults (parents and teachers, alike) are the instruments that will guide them on their journey, and it is our responsibility to help them reach their full potential.
Join the conversation! Leave a comment, or you can tweet me, or follow me on Facebook. I'd love to hear from you. If you like my rambling, then pop your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button, and you'll be first to hear what's up next at EPM HQ! My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.